Who’s irrelevant now? That is the question David Barringer, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA, asks in the context of Pope’s visit.
- We hear as Catholics all the time that our views are out of touch with modern times.
- We are chastised that our beliefs on life and on marriage, among other subjects, are stuck in the past.
- We are told that God was created only because “science” wasn’t yet understood by rational beings.
- We are scolded even by other Christians that Catholicism is too inflexible and that “reform” is needed throughout Church doctrine.
- Our membership is declining in America because the Catholic Church has so little to offer, especially to young people.
- Fewer people who still call themselves Catholic go to Mass outside of maybe Christmas and Easter.
- Those who profess no faith believe that God is a fictional character just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, designed to entice to us do good things so that we will be rewarded.
As Catholics we are considered by the media, the intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities to be delusional, out of touch, and ultimately irrelevant to today’s society and its needs.
So why then do they all want to meet Pope Francis this week?
As Blessed Frederick proved with the founding of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, you can make jokes at our expense and call us names, but as Catholics you can’t ignore us. We are the people who because of our faith heal the sick and clothe and feed the poor. We adopt and educate children. We believe in Life and care for mothers and their children. We believe in Marriage and Family, and provide mental, material and spiritual assistance to keep families together.
We believe in sin, yes, but still love the sinner.
We are misunderstood and even hated. And we respond with love.
This week, as Pope Francis visits the United States, the very people who despise what he stands for all want to have a moment with him. Perhaps they think they can change his mind about Catholic views and doctrine. Maybe he is just the next celebrity, the next selfie target, they want to say they have met. Maybe they wish to tell others that they counseled the Pope!
Or maybe, just maybe, deep down inside they know that the Catholic Church is for many of us the one institution that does not change its core beliefs and values with the times. Good and Evil remain absolute. The Truth is the Truth, even when it is knocked around, joked about or outright attacked. It is immune to the fads of society and celebrity.
This week, we will see millions of people who want just to be near our Holy Father, just to be close to him and the Church he represents. Not everyone in the picture is Catholic. They may be detractors, they may be the curious, and they may be the celeb-seekers.
I pray that some of those in the crowd are the doubters, doubters about what others have told them about our faith.. They doubt what they have been fed by media, by schools and politicians and others who try to pull them away not just from Catholicism but any faith. They may inwardly pray, knowingly or not, for some sign of hope, or of peace, or of love, from this successor to Peter and Vicar of Christ.
From this week onward, when we are told that the Church is dead or irrelevant, let’s remember these days and these crowds. They braved the heat, the gridlocked traffic and the over-capacity venues just to be near the Holy Father.
This isn’t celebrity. This is a Homecoming. Let’s welcome, or welcome back, all to our faith.
Yours in Christ,