There’s an old saying “Action speaks louder than words.” It’s such a cliche that hardly anyone says it these days. There’s also a saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which I think scholars do not believe he ever really said. It’s something like “Teach the Gospel, and if necessary use words.”
Some time ago, interested as I was in the Victorian view of criminal psychology (so I have weird interests) I downlaoded a book by Dr Henry Maudsley (of Maudsley Hospital fame) who was a friend of Charles Darwin. I began reading the book and (very unusally for me) I gave up. Apart from the astonishingly pompous tone of the writing which just grated on me, Maudsley made some very bizarre comments about a passage in the Book of Ezekial, showing he had absolutely no idea what was happening in that passage, nor any notion of a culture outside of his own. (if memory serves he even muddled Ezekial with Jeremiah)
Ezekial did something strange (according to the great Victorian psychiatrist) but if we take a look at what he did and why we’ll see Jeremiah wasn’t acting “mad” he was challenging the selective deafness of the people under his care. God told Ezekial that the people had ears that didn’t hear and eyes that didn’t see. So as they refused to listen, Ezekial was going to show them the prophecy. He acted it out before their eyes (Ex 12:2-7)
A lot of people are muttering about Pope Francis saying he is showing off his humility. He is saying words “I am bishop of Rome” and then doing things that show what that means. He is indeed “showing” how to do humility. He is trying to show the bishops and cardinals how to be a bishop or cardinal. Then they can pick up their spiritual fatherlyness and lead us all, even if it means down on hands and knees crawling through a hole in the wall.
The word “cardinal” means hinge, and a good, well oiled hinge will do a good job of opening and shutting a door. But a hinge that has let it’s oil run dry and allowed itself to rust doesn’t allow for easy entrance or exit.
A lot of people want Papa Francis to kick ass and do some serious weeding in God’s Garden. Perhaps he will, I don’t know. But I can see how he’s trying to lead by example. A friend said to me, “Can you imagine our bishop doing what Francis is doing?” Sadly, I can’t. And that’s the moment when it all fell into place. He is facing a people who won’t listen to words and are lulled into watching pictures without seeing them; so here he is trying to make the pictures for us so we can SEE what has to be done.
It has been reported (in Portuguese I can’t find it in English yet) that Pope Francis is going to consecrate his papacy to Our Lady of Fatima. This will tie him with Popes John Paul II and Benedict. The three of them seem like types of the three parts of the Church. JP is Blessed in heaven with the Church Triumphant, Benedict is going through the purgatory of the Church Suffering and Francis is the active soldier for Christ in the Church Militant.
I love that Pope Emeritus Benedict is being called Grandpapa Benedict around the net. It’s very much how I see him too. His suffering and prayers are the oil that Papa Francis can use to get the rusty hinges working again.
So we can remember the refrain of Bl Pope JP II “Do not be afraid.”