Pope spoke in actions as well as words

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the United States was a whirlwind of visits to the most powerful in their respective domains, and to the powerless in their everyday circumstances. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina was accustomed on a daily basis to encountering the poor and the influential in his Archdiocese, and he was most at home in Las Villas, or slums, of Argentina where he regularly walked with, prayed with and encouraged those who lived on the margins of the Paris of Latin America.
So when he chose to serve a meal at a nearby soup kitchen in Washington, D.C. rather than have lunch with members of the United States Congress, it was not a photo-op as would be the case with many public officials, but rather a graced spontaneity that is part of his character and his Gospel DNA.  It is an extension of Saint Francis of Assisi’s embrace of the leper when there was no one around with a camera.
The gestures and words of Pope Francis will burn in our hearts, minds, and imaginations for years to come and for the remainder of this column I want to offer a selection of his wisdom that transcends politics and ideology.

“As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.  I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.”  Immigration was a theme that resonated throughout his speeches and homilies during his five full days in our country.
At the end of his address to the United States Bishops at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral Pope Francis concluded his homily with a plea to encounter and accompany the immigrant with dignity and respect.
Religious Liberty
“Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of goodwill, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their rights to religious liberty.
That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And as my brothers the United States Bishops have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
Pope Francis began his address in the Rose Garden at the outset of his public appearances with this fundamental theme of Religious Liberty, and it is clear that he has been tuned into the struggle of the Church in recent times. He could have also added that Religious Liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment of our cherished Constitution, the bedrock of our society.

The Path of Encounter and Dialogue
Homily at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral to the bishops
“The path ahead, then, is dialogue among yourselves, dialogue in your presbyterate, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with families, dialogue with society…Otherwise, we fail to understand the thinking of others, or to realize deep down that the brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem, with the power and the closeness of love, counts more than their positions, distant as they may be from what we hold as true and certain.  Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor; it has no place in his heart.  Although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing.” Pope Francis in these words offers an excellent catechesis of 1Peter 3, 15, to speak with meekness and respect, and Ephesians 4, 15 to speak the truth in love.

The Responsibility of Members of Congress
“Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility.  Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.
A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people.  To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”
Pope Francis spoke as a Vatican Head of State, but far more as a moral and spiritual voice in the public square to our elected officials.  Imagine if all responsible for the common good by virtue of their elected office walked the noble path of vocation and service.

On the Family
Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name — a small gesture — will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, by brothers. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion.
Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Little things show love, by attention to small daily signs, which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life grows in faith.
In conclusion, Pope Francis exhorts that the wisdom of family life well lived is vital for our world today.  “The Gospel of the family is truly ‘good news’ in a world where self-concern seems to reign supreme.”