Once again I apologize for not blogging as frequently as I would like. On the other hand, the reasons are wonderful ones: my ministries on behalf of the diocese, the teaching I am doing, especially graduate students in pastoral ministry, and the ministries of our parish are all life-giving and time-consuming. All of which is wonderful!
I have also been considering prayerfully whether to keep this blog running in any case. Without re-hashing what is now ancient history, I was recently "uninvited" from a scheduled talk in an archdiocese on the East Coast over concerns related to my writing and research. Unfortunately, that work was largely misinterpreted or (in at least one example) unread. The decision, we are told, was also based on concerns raised in certain unspecified "blog postings." Not knowing whether that was a reference to something I may have written here on this blog, or comments made by other bloggers, was never fully revealed. Needless to say, I have been reticent to return to such a nebulous environment.
A parishioner recently complained to me that she was upset about all of the media "hype" surrounding Pope Benedict's retirement, the run-up to the conclave, and then the conclave itself. She felt that all of this attention from the media trivialized the moment. I can understand her concern, but at the same time, I felt completely the opposite: the world -- and not just the Catholic world -- was genuinely interested in what was going on and who might appear in the (black) shoes of the fisherman. What I felt was the hunger of people who had often been disappointed by other people in the name of Church, but who still longed to be a part of all of the wonderful aspects of church that thrive despite our best efforts sometimes to sabotage. Francis is emerging as the best example of a true pontifex -- builder of bridges -- that we have seen in a long, long time. I saw all of that media involvement as a marvelous example of evangelization at its best, an opportunity to be in dialogue with others about what matters most.
What Pope Francis will do in the future remains to be seen. What he has already done has generated hope and enthusiasm for the papacy itself and the Church. One person admitted to me recently that, as a gay man, he struggled with many aspects of the church's approach to homosexuals. I reminded him that he shouldn't expect the new pope to make any substantive changes to the teaching itself. He readily acknowledged that, but then said something quite remakarkable: "Oh, I understand that, Deacon. But you know something? There's just something in this new pope's approach that shows me that I am loved by God. If the teaching doesn't change, I can live with that because I know now that God loves me and that this pope truly cares."
The medium AND the message.