The new leader of the Roman Catholic Church is a Jesuit priest. That means he is more into serving out in the world than being cloistered and apart from it, more into humility than pomp, more into frugality than lavishness. This could be good.
This comes at a time when similar movements in these directions would be good for all Christians everywhere, but especially in America, where a Christian subculture has obscured rather than advanced the gospel.
The reasons for cloistering may be different, but the result has been the same. Fear and the need for safety have fostered a circle-the-wagons posture toward the world among American Christians for at least three decades now. This has been fueled in large part by the products and services of a Christian subculture which has offered “safe” versions of education, entertainment and politics that have in effect separated Christians from the world rather than sending us into it as Christ did. For centuries monks and priests have separated themselves from public life in search of a holier, more sanctified existence. Christians have done the same thing for a safer one.
We would all do well to pay attention to this man, because we need a new sensitivity towards the world. We need an inner sanctity expressing itself in compassion rather than an outer one championed by a Christian T-shirt. We need a quiet, coming alongside witness, bolstered by the Holy Spirit, versus a pompous, power-seeking presence in the world bolstered by numbers. Christians have been in bed with political pomp and power for long enough; it’s time to get down on our hands and knees and wash some feet.
It’s time to find out what the Lord wants us to do out in the world and do it. It may be that this pope — this new Francis — can help us figure that out.