Thursday, February 22 , 2018, 2:50 pm | Fair 62º


Catholic Church of the Beatitudes: What Are You Thinking, Pope Francis?

As a mother, I empathize with parents dealing with a child who marches to a different drummer, especially when the drummer is very counter-cultural. With all the excitement surrounding our new Pope Francis and his focus on simplicity, poverty and humility, I wonder what the mother of St. Francis of Assisi must have experienced as she watched her pride and joy reject everything she had hoped for — a socially and financially successful son, beautiful daughter-in-law and way above average grandchildren.

Following is my imagined conversation between Francis and his mother.

Whatever Are You Thinking, Francis?

“Francis, I’m your mother. Don’t even think about leaving now. Where were you last night? Clare told me she sent you an invitation.”

“I just didn’t feel like going.”

“Francis, you used to love parties, so social, fun-loving, handsome, young and full of life. You’re such a catch, Francis! Clare is such a nice girl. She’s beautiful. Comes from a nice family. Nice manners, lots of money. What more could you ask for?”

“I’m building a church, Mother.”

“How interesting!”

“I had a vision.”

“You had a vision? And the rumors about you kissing lepers! You need some serious help. For God’s sake, Francis, think before you embrace someone.”

“Mother, I couldn’t help myself. In my dream I saw Jesus embracing sick people, poor people.”

“You’re hallucinating, Francis. We’re talking disease here. Big-time disease. You’re driving your father crazy.”

“All he talks about is business. I’m not interested.”

“What do you mean all he talks about is business? What else is he supposed to talk about? I mean, Francis, when you took your clothes off, dancing in the street in front of all the neighbors …”

“Everything I do seems to upset him.”

“Of course your father is upset! He has the best line of menswear in the trade, and you roam around in that ragged, brown beggars outfit.”

“I don’t mind begging. I’d rather fast and pray than party. Besides, I’m having wonderful dreams and visions.”

“Francis, you’re sounding like a religious nut! Who’s that you’re talking to now?”

“The birds.”

“This is serious, Francis. I mean it. I’ve had it. Go live in a cave, hang out with lepers and losers, be a beggar. Just go ahead then. See if you ever make a difference.”

And what a difference Francis made!

In a recent essay in National Catholic Reporter, theologian Hans Küng speaks of the Franciscan ideal our church is deeply in need of today. For Küng, this is spelled out in financial transparency, rejection of pomp and ceremony, concern for the weak and marginalized, a church of humanity, dialogue, brotherhood and sisterhood, hospitality for the nonconformist, a church that allows new religious forces and ideas to flourish.

“A church in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi means a church of good news and joy, a theology based purely on the Gospel, a church that listens to people instead of indoctrinating from above, a church that not only teaches but one that constantly learns,” he wrote.

Members of the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes stand in solidarity with the vision of St. Francis, so well iterated by Küng. We believe vibrant Christianity takes place only when we take the risk of being counter-cultural, of basing our actions on Gospel values of inclusivity, not on a culture of power that is centralized, legalized, politicized and clericalized.

— Genie Hoyne is a member of the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes, which celebrates Mass at 5:30 p.m. Saturdays at First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara, 2101 State St. Click here for more information, or call 805.252.4105. Click here for previous columns.

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