In word and in deed

Cody Houlahan is a senior student at St John's Boys College in Hastings, here he reflects on the first year since Pope Francis was elected.

At our school we have a motto; ‘Opere Et Veritate’ or ‘In word and in deed.’ It calls on us as students to put our words into actions, a concept that seems simple but often is not undertaken.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, or Pope Francis as we know him, has been dubbed by not only the Catholic world but also the secular world as ‘The People’s Pope.’ Popes of the past have seemed distant and are viewed as high and mighty beings; much like God was pre-Vatican II.

Much like Pope John XXIII, the Pope at the time of Vatican II, Pope Francis is not content with the world as it is and is willing to put his words into actions and get among his people; to ‘smell like the sheep’ he is to shepherd.

For a young, enthusiastic person like myself, this is exactly what I hope the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to be like. Recently I encountered an article online of Pope Francis taking a ‘selfie’ with a group of young teenagers. As a fairly modern activity, it caught me by surprise but also created a realisation for me in Pope Francis’ willingness to evangelise even further. Previous Popes have not struck me as ones who show an immediate will for change but Pope Francis has given me this vibe which leads me to believe that as a Catholic community, we are in for a whirlwind ride of beneficial and necessary changes.

Pope Francis has been quoted to say; ‘Since many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church and others are non-believers, from the bottom of my heart I give this silent blessing to each and every one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you but knowing that each one of you is a child of God.’ In earlier days of Roman Catholicism, a statement such as this directed towards welcoming the secular world, especially from a pope was considered sacrilege. However we as a society have moved forward from this thinking and Pope Francis embodies this through his seemingly controversial actions which have been embraced worldwide.

During his life as a cardinal, Jorge Bergoglio would often catch the bus to work, kiss the feet of AID’s patients and sit and chat with prostitutes. These humble actions set Pope Francis as a servant leader; one who leads when needs to but is not afraid to step back to mingle with his people and experience life as they see it.

A particular story that amused me was hearing that following his inauguration, the newly ordained Pope Francis was seen thanking individually the staff at the hotel where he was staying. He then went inside to personally pay the bill, then caught a taxi to the conclave with a fellow priest and finally left the conclave on a bus with his fellow Cardinals. All these actions reflect a man not fazed by his position of power, a man who considers himself no better than any one of us. This makes Pope Francis easy to relate to. Previous popes have appeared generous and kind when in public but then attain a staunch, powerful presence when proclaiming or preaching. Pope Francis however maintains the same attitude regardless of the circumstances. This makes it easier for us a Catholic community to believe he does not stage his generous actions to give himself a good name; it is the way he lives his life. In the process he encourages us to cast away socio-economic status and band together as one cohesive and equal unit.

In closing, I believe Pope Francis is the start of a revolution within the Catholic Church. Traditional customs are cast away to make way for evangelised and approachable ways of life which we are encouraged to live by. Pope Francis has brought along the change so desperately needed for so long. I hope his papacy will be lengthy and future popes will take heed of his authentic actions to further continue the modern evangelisation of the Catholic Church.