Tuesday, May 07, 2013

the paradox of a Jesuit pope: "sometimes the one on the margins is just what the center needs"

The delightful  chaplain to the Colbert Report, Fr. James Martin writes:

...Jesuits often work “on the margins,” with groups who may be underserved by the church and other organizations, particularly the poor and marginalized. A few examples: One of my Jesuit brothers is the Catholic prison chaplain at San Quentin prison; he regularly tells me about his experiences counseling men on death row. Another Jesuit works with gang members in Los Angeles, helping them stay out of trouble and find work, often telling them, “Nothing stops a bullet better than a job.” Another helps indigent youth in Camden, New Jersey, learn web design skills at a company called Hopeworks. 

Our work on the margins means that we are occasionally viewed with suspicion in some quarters of the church. As one Jesuit said to me, “When you work on the margins, you sometimes step out of bounds.”

To confuse matters more, sometimes the local bishop asks Jesuits to take over a parish—so in some circumstances we end up working as “parish priests” after all. But my life, and my work at a Catholic magazine, while centered on God, is quite different from that of the daily life of a parish priest. Not better or worse, just different.

Sometimes, as in the case of Jorge Bergoglio, we’re asked to become bishops, in his case the archbishop of Buenos Aires. But that’s not the norm. Jesuit bishops are few, archbishops fewer, and cardinals perhaps in the single digits...

 ...And thus the irony. Jorge Bergoglio, a man who had promised never to strive for a position, was elected to the highest one in the Church. A man who was probably seen as something of an “outsider” by many of the cardinals in the papal conclave became the consummate insider. But sometimes the one on the margins is just what the center needs..  

..The College of Cardinals thinks needs fixing—which is really saying something. That’s one reason I think the cardinals elected Bergoglio. As a Jesuit he’s a bit of an “outsider,” and so may be seen as just the person to clean things up. (If he ever called this Wharton grad for advice, I’d tell him not to be afraid to fire at will.)

Considering that in just his first few days Pope Francis made so many changes—dispensing with some of the more elaborate Vatican rituals and vestments, ditching the traditional red shoes that every modern pope has donned in favor of his worn black ones, greeting people after a Sunday Mass in Vatican City with hugs and kisses, and, most of all, talking about how he much he hopes for “a church that is poor, and that is for the poor”—I believe he’s up to the task. The Jesuit tradition of prayer, hard work, analysis, flexibility, and sense of humor will serve him, and the Church, well. That’s my prayer.   LINK 

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