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Pope Francis, an Enigma for Catholic Intellectuals

April 13, AD 2013 0 Comments

I’m married to Pope Francis. I came to this realization the other day when my wife and I were musing through a Catholic book store and she stopped and marveled at the amount of written work our beloved Holy Father Emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI, has produced. “He wrote a lot,” she commented as she peered through his colossal collection of literature.

For you to understand the meaning behind her words, you need to know two things: Number one, I am a Lay Dominican (in training) and share the charisms of prayer, service, community and, most especially, study. Number two my wife is the farthest thing away from Dominican that a lay Catholic woman can be. She doesn’t particularly love reading or study. So when she peered into my eyes after confirming Benedict XVI’s illustrious writing career, she very consciously shared with me her immense delight that Pope Francis was our new Pope.

Not everyone is happy with the conclave’s selection like she is, though. I’m noticing a lot of people are showing an increasing amount of criticism towards our new Pontiff. Strangely enough, I’ve also noticed that the vast majority of these upset people are what I would consider intellectual Catholics, or those who, like me, have a special affinity for the endless practice of understanding the depth of Mother Church’s doctrines.

It is to this group that I say, “Relax!” 

If opposites attract spiritually, then Pope Francis is the perfect match for us all. It is because he does not have a lot of written work published that he can speak with credibility to the millions of Catholics who can’t even afford a simple Bible to read in their homes. To add, it is his ability to not waste words that allows him to speak through his service. He has already challenged us to be a “Church for the Poor” and, as such, he has become the “Poor Francis” that people like my wife (and anyone else from the developing world) can identify with.

My love of Christ is manifested through the building up of intellect and my wife’s is demonstrated in every act of service she so dutifully completes. Don’t get us wrong, I’m as much a servant as she is and she is as much a scholar as I am, but only because we share our charisms with each other on a daily basis. While our spiritualities are polar opposites, our mission is the same- build His Kingdom through our domestic Church and solidify His will through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

This little story from Fr. Guy Bedoulle‘s book, St. Dominic: The Grace of The Word sums up my point quite nicely:

“One night Dominic, at prayer according to his custom, beheld Jesus Christ looking upon the world in wrath and his Mother presenting two men to him to appease him. He recognized himself as one of them but did not know who the other was. Fixing his gaze on him he tried to memorize his features. The next day in some church—no one knows which—he saw, clothed in the habit of a mendicant, the figure revealed to him the night before. Running up to this poor man he embraced him with holy affection and said: ‘You are my companion, you will go with me, let us stay together and nothing shall be able to prevail against us.’ The embrace of Francis and Dominic has often been presented and stylized to illustrate the theme of ‘holy friendship.’”

If Dominic’s love for study and Francis’ love of poverty could unite in such a zealous embrace; if my wife and I can unite in holy matrimony, then I am convinced that the Catholic intellectuals of the world can love Pope Francis.

If not, then I would suggest asking any Catholic south of the U.S. border what they think.

Source: Bedouelle, Fr. Guy (2011-05-02). Saint Dominic: The Grace of The Word . Ignatius Press.

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About the Author:

TJ Burdick is the lead author of One Body, Many Blogs, Advice for Christian Bloggers. He is also a school teacher by trade, a lay Catholic by grace and a husband and father of three by vocation. He writes to help support Catholic charities and to put food on the table for his family as his teaching wages are very humble. When he is not enjoying time with his family, you can find him planning his next big lesson or locked inside an adoration chapel. You can find more of his work at @