My Favorite Pope of 2013.
I'm not a Roman Catholic. I have been to Mass a few times with Karen Sue and my sister Darlene who both converted to Catholicism after starting elsewhere.
When thinking about what should be at the top of my list, what made the greatest impression on me in 2013, Pope Francis quickly came to mind. Intimidated, I didn't feel it was appropriate for me, a lowly Thoreauvian naturalist to comment; it wasn't my place to be so bold.
But then I started seeing Pope Francis pop up: the cover of The New Yorker, and Esquire's Best Dressed because of his penchant for simplicity—"The popular pope has been hailed for rejecting any hints of luxury or opulence," reported ABC News—and as Time's Person of the Year. I decided it was OK for me too. The world seemed to have come to an united consensus. (I half believe that when the Sports Illustrated editors got their choice of Sportsman of the Year down to Peyton and the Pope, they went with Manning because the pontiff is, after all, only a rookie, just nine months on the job.)
When most men or woman ascend to the top, assume a leadership role, they also assume the trappings, the folderol of the new job. It soon goes to their head, yet with Pope Francis, it's gone to his heart. But, apparently that is where it has been since he became a priest in the 1960s. He is trappings and folderol lite. Gone are the gold shoes, the fancy apartment, the expensive car.
The cardinals and bishops that elected him knew what they were getting, and wanted.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina has not changed to fit the position, the position has to change to fit the kindly priest. And his "no nonsense, keep it simple, no bling" approach has the materialistic world taking note.
I feel he is speaking not only to Catholics but to the entire planet, even me. And I've never felt that way with any of the other 265 popes. Well, to be fair, I've only been around for the last six.
He speaks of love, charity, mercy; of reaching out and caring for the poor, the sick, the orphans, the afflicted, the wheelchair bound, the homeless, the young, the elder.
His homilies are part Christian, part humanitarian, part egalitarian.
When I hear of his deeds, I think of Thoreau, "In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness." I think of Whitman, "Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, hate tyrants." I think of Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I think of the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
Pope Francis laments a society that spends more on its dogs and cats than on the hungry children across town, and a throwaway culture that ships its seniors away to live and die alone with strangers. The pope tweets, "No elderly person should be like an “exile” in our families. The elderly are a treasure for our society."
Blessed be the meek, for they will inherit the Earth. And from that lofty position they can do much good as peacemakers.
And the needful world will sit up and take notice.