Pope Francis has become a poster figure for re-invention. His example is one that strikes a chord with a world that wants to believe that personal and institutional growth is possible. Father to a new generation of Catholics, Pope Francis is the embodiment of the concept of putting your money where your mouth is; of personally becoming the change you want to see in the world.
Almost single-handed, Pope Francis has impacted the perception of the Catholic church all over the world. He hasn’t come out with fire and brimstone, cursing those who don’t live up to a perceived standard in the church. He has, instead, taken a look at how things were being done, how far it had gone away from the intended direction, and decided to do things a different way. Personally, as an example and not a critic, he has taken a path not walked by any Pope in modern history.
Pope Francis has a somewhat larger sphere of influence than most. He knows his journey is being watched by the entire world, Catholic and otherwise. The fact that his actions have flown in the face of the perceived image of the church provides fresh inspiration to those around the world who feel trapped by convention or tradition. He has not added new rules or re-written laws. The Holy Father has inspired re-invention on a global scale by simply showing people his heart, without concern for the way it would be received. He is following a set of directions far more ancient, and authoritative, than any worldly power could hope to countermand.
Having the conviction and the courage, along with a mandate from a Conclave of his peers, Pope Francis has hit the ground running. The renewal that is occurring is not an accident. The Pope did not suddenly become the man who the world is seeing when he accepted the office. His election was by a group of men who knew him, and saw the way that he lived his faith. Behind the closed doors of the Conclave, the leaders of the Catholic church made the first step in this process by electing a Pope more concerned with what the church could be than with what it has always been. Whether a man, like Pope Francis, or an institution like the Catholic church, the key to change is as simple as it is difficult: just do it.
Pope Francis has not been shy about giving his opinion. He has not been reluctant to share his ideas. Unlike leaders from years past, however, he has not allowed the traditions of the past to prevent him from taking the actions needed to move forward. When tradition tells him to live in elaborately prepared rooms, he humbly refuses and moves into a small apartment. He rides around in a Ford Focus, rather than bow to pressure and ride in the Papal limousine. He is the global example of the fact that change is possible, and that what it takes is the simple courage to act to effect that change.
He is not covering new ground. Quite the opposite, he is modeling the tenets that have always characterized the Christian faith. Service, humility, and love for those entrusted to his care are not new ideas. The fact that he is confident enough to stick with the fundamentals, and doesn’t go out of his way to add anything to them, shows that sometimes moving forward means going back to basics.
Washing the feet of church members, allowing breastfeeding in the Sistine Chapel, and even baptizing a child who tradition would have caused previous Popes to deny, are the little steps that lead to real progress. It is the action that goes with the words that makes the difference. Pope Francis is a global example, proving that it is possible to make changes to even the most staunch traditions. From those examples, and the many more that follow daily, the Holy Father is proving that re-invention can happen when you roll up your sleeves and make it happen.
By Jim Malone