A recently published photograph of Pope Francis embracing a man disfigured by tumors immediately and predictably brought this Roman Catholic to tears. Come to find out, I was not alone. Many Catholics and non-Catholics were moved by this continuum of Christlike compassion that eminates from Pope Francis. Then I looked into it a little deeper. It looks like Francis may quite possibly be bringing many atheists to their knees. One of my closest friends is a High Anglican, and he even postulated that we could be witnessing a complete revival of Faith. At a minimum, This Pope has ushered in a new way of thinking and brought fresh air to a stagnant institution, one steeped in centuries of pomp and pageantry, dogma and dis-connectedness. How refreshing to bear witness as the oldest religious institution in the western world does an about face and breathes new life into an old religion.
But at its very core, this “new” approach to Catholicism, or Christianity for that matter, is anything but. In fact, it amounts to nothing more than following 2,000 year-old teachings: those of Jesus Christ and many who followed behind him, including St. Francis of Assisi, whose name Pope Francis chose. The 13th-century Catholic friar showed a great love for animals and the environment. St. Francis was also beloved for his dedication to poverty and reform. In so many ways this new Pope, who has championed and emulated the teachings of Jesus, is living the teachings of the Bible, and the world is responding. It’s not all about condemning gay people and crusading against birth control pills anymore. All of a sudden, matters religious seem to have become more real. It stymies the mind to think he’s been at the helm for less than a year.
As Jesus did, Pope Francis has denied himself many of the material trappings that typically accompany the world’s religious leader. He prefers black shoes over papal red, buses over limos, a smaller apartment over an opulent residence, and pays his own bills. But the gentle spirit he exhibits of reaching out to others less fortunate, ill, downtrodden, and the poor have garnered him great respect across people of many faiths and even those without.
But this most recent photo of Pope Francis embracing and blessing a man horribly disfigured by tumors has served to further captivate a world in need of such an example of love. Many have understandably likened this image to Jesus and his healing of lepers. Like a leper, this man suffers daily from the world’s stares and rejection, coupled with the unimaginable pain of his own personal condition. But at this poignant moment, he feels joy and reverence, more so than he ever thought possible, but to which all humans are Divinely entitled.
Here are but a few examples of many ways Pope Francis is distinguishing himself as a living example:
As the most powerful symbol of the Catholic Church, there are many lavish appointments at Pope Francis’ disposal, including the opulent 12-plus-room papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace. But instead, given that he has no personal household staff (practically unheard of in his business), he has opted to live in a small studio in a Vatican residence, the Casa Santa Marta.
2. He speaks for the trees
Pope Francis advocates for the environment. And in fact, during his inaugural homily on March 18 in St. Peter’s Square, the environment received much attention from the modern-day St. Francis of Assisi. Among other pleas for the environment in his speech, Pope Francis said, “I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”
Holy Harleys?!? When a rally of 35,000 Harley-Davidson riders from around the world descended upon St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Pope Francis blessed the lot of them and laid his hands on a disabled boy accompanied by one of motorcyclists. Some riders decorated their bikes with flags imprinted with Francis’ smiling mug; Harley-Davidson gave Pope Francis two white Harleys to use in the Vatican police force.
4. He tweets
The image of a tweeting Pope is good enough on its own, but Pope Francis actually uses social media to great effect. Beyond ecclesiastic clichés, he has delivered tweets that focus on corporate greed and the environment.
5. Atheists are beginning to quote the Pope
Atheists across social media platforms are sharing Pope Francis’ quotes … accompanied by phrases of praise. In what was surely a first, a pope said that atheists could be redeemed.
While delivering a homily, Pope Francis stated:
The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. Even those who are athiests and do not believe but do good: We will meet one another there.
Pope Francis loves to mix with the huge crowds in St. Peter’s Square; he even shakes hands and kisses babies like a good politician. He frequently celebrates public mass and opts for walking when his security team wants him to ride. And he has gone so far so to trade in the bulletproof-glass Popemobile that has been in use since 1981, and instead rides in an open-air white Mercedes jeep, frequently getting out to greet the crowds.
And who can forget, as the world looked on and listened to his speech about the state of the family, the precious little boy who defied the bodyguards and clung to His Holiness as he delivered his message. I learned a latin term in lawschool: res ipsa loquitur. It means “the thing speaks for itself”. As each day passes, that seems to reflect this Papacy. And this “thing” could effect a renewal of faith, the likes of which this World has never seen. And not just my High-Anglican Pal thinks so. What about you???
J.L. Mann (Bubba) Cromer is an Attorney in Columbia, whose practice focuses on DUI Defense, Criminal Defense & Probate Administration and Estate Planning. Admitted to practice in South Carolina, California & The District of Columbia, “Bubba” has been in practice for 26 years. In addition to his Solo Practice at Cromer Law Offices, LLC, Bubba Served as the only true Independent In the S.C. Legislature from 1990-1998. For the past 16 years, he has Served as the Reading Clerk of the House.Bubba resides in Columbia, S.C and Rosman, N.C. where he built a cabin 4 years ago. Bubba lives with his Hungarian Golden Retriever Casper.