Visit the Shop at

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Thoughts on the New Holy Father from the sort-of-Protestant [CC-BY-SA-2.0
via Wikimedia Commons
Such a lot of turmoil and fear. This Holy Week is different from others, no? The Catholic Church has a new leader and the rest of us are watching.  He's different-- this one, and high church non-Catholics are uneasy too. You see, the Catholic and Orthodox churches are the ones that are supposed to stand fast against the winds of change and culture. They say that when Rome sneezes, Protestants catch a cold.  Did you know that?

Here's what I think (not that it matters, because I'm not Roman Catholic--but I need to work through this too):

As a former Episcopalian, I've seen what can happen when "high church" exists in the absence of correct doctrine and practice. It's led to a crisis in the American corner of the the Anglican Communion. It's led to fractures across the country--the first diocesan-sized of which occurred right here in my own little home town. That's not at all to say that high church and correct doctrine are mutually exclusive, only that one can exist without the other. I'm also not suggesting that the Roman Catholic Church was somehow at risk of sinking into doctrinal aberration.  I'm not saying that at all.  I'm only saying that liturgical correctness is not the whole ball of beeswax.

Mass at Pusey House
By TH (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Anyone who knows me just a little knows that I'm all about traditional liturgical observance. I am nothing if not very traddy. However, I've seen exquisite liturgy done by heretics and know that the two are not bound to travel hand in hand. This new Pope has, already, made me stop and ponder. Is all of my focus on smells and bells and traditional catholic home observance fully and deeply rooted in true religion?  Have I lost some sight of our Lord's service to the poor and downtrodden? Look, I believe that the poor are just as blessed by lace and finery in worship as the rest of us are.  I believe that they, too, want to touch heaven in a cloud of incense with gold glinting through. I believe that the mass in its splendor prepares and enables us for service to our fellow man. I believe that, --and I believe that it is a tragedy to downgrade the quality of the church's worship of Almighty God based on the notion that if we rob the poor of communion served from a beautiful paten it will somehow spell the end to poverty.  However, I also know that it is easy to focus on the beauty of worship and lose sight of the poor in the pews.

El Greco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Catholic Church has been around for a long while.  (I'll not stir up the argument between my Orthodox and Roman Catholic readers over who was here before 1000 A.D., because that's not the point here.) At any rate, she's was around long before we were, and save a quick return of our Lord, she'll be here long after. She's survived ups and downs and held strong to truth and practice through it all.  For Heaven's sake, she survived the Protestant Reformation, (sorry about that guys -- I'd take most of it back if I could, in spite of my Lutheran school upbringing) -- so she'll certainly survive a little bit of change of focus for awhile. God knows what we need. A loving Heavenly Father knows if we need a reminder or course correction and we can trust Him to provide it. This dear, sweet man-of-the-people, this new Pope, has been called for a reason.  It's not up to us to evaluate whether God made the right choice; it's up to us to learn from the new Holy Father what we are intended to learn.  So far as I know, he's not told us to drop the Latin or put the lace away. I do wish he'd get rid of the slacks and don the red shoes. The notion of puppets practically sends me into a coronary, but--you know, I'm a high church Anglo-Catholic; I am, perhaps, too focused on those sorts of things. Allow me to offer a reminder, from experience, that too much focus on those sorts of things -- ethereal as fine liturgy is--can blind you to doctrinal heresy seeping in to the foundation of your house.

Pure religion and undefiled in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. ~ James 1:27

We're going to be okay. We are loved by an Almighty God who sends great men to teach and guide us.  It is our job to be disciples of Christ, not to evaluate the shepherds he has sent us. The servant is not greater than the master.

Pax Christi dear ones,


  1. Dear Michelle: First of all Thank you for what you have written here. It is right on Sister! We have been given a gift for these times in Pope Francis and we are still unpacking God's surprises in this man. We have been given glimpses and now we wait with joyful expectation and go forward with the words of this humble priest-now-Pope. It seems the Orthodox are opening in ways that are very hopeful. When i think of the red shoes business, I am reminded that Jesus wore sandals and probably not too attractive ones. Peter, the first Pope, wore sandals and also pretty scruffy looking. The Beauty of the Bride is in her heart and must be seen in her actions towards others. We have been sent the one who will help to prepare her for the coming of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. What does he whisper to her: open your heart to the poor, be humble, be hopeful and be compassionate. Pope Francis' sermon for today tells us to be ready for God's surprises. Those of us who love the Extraordinary Form will not lose anything of the beauty that has been restored to us but instead now with hearts prepared we can leave the beauty of the incensed altars with fragrant open hands- open to the world that needs God's beauty too.

  2. Thank you for this post. It hadn't even occurred to me that anyone might fear a deterioration of the liturgy because of the down-to-earth and back-to-basics attitude of Pope Francis. Maybe because I belong to a Franciscan Catholic parish? I long for the day when the beauty of the traditional liturgy of the Latin Mass will blend seamlessly with the approachable openness to Everyman and Everywoman. Then again, if we reach perfection, we'll know we're in heaven, so this may be too much to hope for here on Earth!

  3. For the record, I've come back and read this several times. I'm never sure what to comment. I like so much of what you say. I find it thought-provoking, charitable and insightful.

    We share some very similar views (especially that whole "we've been around this long... good luck to the idea of one guy mucking that up" point), but again... I just. I dunno. I keep coming back to this entry because it does make me feel hopeful, but something has me uneasy. I dunno if it's the evil one filling my mind with distrust or what. I just... I'm very uneasy. Your message consistently puts me at ease (which is probably why I've come back to read it so many times). I have such high hopes for this seemingly wonderful, down-to-earth man. He seems so incredibly wonderful. I guess I'm just jaded in a sense where he "seems" too perfect to be true, ya know? I'm terrible. I feel that's terribly unfair of me to say, but I can't help it. I want so much to jump head over heels in love with him, but I feel so uneasy.

    So I guess take that for what it's worth. LoL. I've been comforted (several times now) by you regarding the intentions of the Pope. Ha ha ha. Much love to you and yours.



Welcome! We love to hear from you. You are embraced here in Christian charity.Your comment will not show up immediately. Rest assured that is has been received and will be published soon.

Pax Christi!