MSW Previews Pope Francis’ US Trip

Michael Sean Winters of NCR has written an excellent preview of the pope’s upcoming visit to the United States. Check out each of the articles:

Pope Francis is Coming! Part 1 by Michael Sean Winters: “The overarching theme is this: The Church has become too self-referential and worldly, and this has crippled its ability to evangelize, to spread the Good News, to be the graced sacrament where people encounter the Risen Lord, leaving the Church sick or irrelevant or both, and the antidote is a Church of encounter, especially at the margins, after the model of Jesus. That, in one sentence, is the essence of this pontificate and he returns to this theme again and again.”

Part 2: “The first sub-theme is that mercy and joy are at the heart of the Gospel we Catholics are called to proclaim. The Gospel is a Gospel of mercy and it should be announced with joy. We know that in the conclave, Cardinal Bergoglio read Cardinal Kasper’s book entitled “Mercy.” It took. He asks the question of the Church: Where is God’s mercy in all we do? It is an easy question to overlook and +Kasper’s book makes clear that for too long, that is exactly what the western Church has done, overlook it. This belief that mercy is at the heart of the Gospel, indeed you could say it is the Gospel, helps explain much about Pope Francis’ obvious freedom: He knows that when you read the Gospels, it is obvious that the opposition to Jesus only emerged when he preached God’s mercy. That opposition did not deter Jesus and it will not deter Francis.

Joy seems to come naturally to Pope Francis, but in fact it comes supernaturally. His infectious faith is itself the key to “the Francis Effect.” People are drawn to him because he is so joyful, and that joy evidences a deep and abiding faith in the Lord’s providence.  Faith, for Francis, is not accomplished with any kind of checklist spirituality, do these seven things every day and you will become a saint.”

Part 3: “The third theme he will address, both at the White House and the Congress, will be poverty and the economy of exclusion. Again, I think his words will be more measured than those he delivered in Bolivia. (I also suspect Speaker of the House will not present the pope with a crucifix in which the corpus is nailed to a hammer and sickle!) He will remind Americans that we are a rich nation living in a world beset with abject poverty and call us to the better angels of our nature. Indeed, as soon as he leaves Congress, he will go to the Catholic Charities center in downtown Washington to call attention to the plight of the poor in this land of plenty. He will give voice to the voiceless poor throughout the world, to be sure.”

How Pope Francis Challenges the Catholic Left: “Much of what the pope will say next month will thrill the Catholic Left. The fact that he is holding up the Church’s social justice teachings in such provocative ways is a thing to celebrate. But, I hope the Catholic Left will also hear what he says that challenges us. I hope we will be less dismissive of the non-rational aspects of our faith, less utopian in our understanding of the human adventure, grasp that, for the Christian human happiness is not an end in itself. And, I hope that we on the Left will not whitewash the things the pope says that do not fit easily with our agendas or biases, as too many on the Right do, but allow ourselves to be challenged, really challenged. The Christian in me clings to that hope even while the analyst in me entertains his doubts.”

How Pope Francis Challenges the Catholic Right: “It has been over a century since Leo XIII condemned “Americanism” in his Apostolic Letter in 1899. It was termed “the phantom heresy” but if it was then, it is not now. It is not merely the Donald Trumps of our time who expose the heresy. We have for too long failed to ask foundational questions about the structure of our economy, celebrating “success,” while worshipping a crucified God. For too long we have failed to ask foundational questions about the potential for self-interest, even enlightened self-interest, to form the basis of our government. For too long, we have equated “the American Dream” with materialism and its rewards, being sure to donate to charity, but never wondering if our economic well-being has any claims upon it by those who are excluded by the same system that makes us rich. For too long, we have thought consumer consumption was a path to happiness, not a step on the road to true serfdom.”