‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.Joseph Brackett, 1848
My free moments of September 22-27 were spent keeping tabs on Pope Francis during his travels through DC, New York, and Philadelphia. This was an easy task, since major news channels and social media tracked his every move. I checked my Twitter feed often, following James Martin, SJ and Jim Gaffigan for updates on the pope’s whereabouts, and sometimes turned on CNN to watch the live events. Although I’d been looking forward to the papal visit and knew it was kind of a big deal, I was still surprised by how many hundreds of thousands of people lined up and tuned in to catch a glimpse of the popemobile. The pope reality TV show, as my husband Dave called it, went on for six days straight.
Now the show’s over. The pope and his entourage have left the U.S. But Pope Francis left behind some gifts for us to receive, if we want them, and to share. During his time in this country, Francis walked, rode, flew, and spoke right to as many of us as he could reach, and his message was simple: whether you are Speaker of the House or homeless on the street or a first grader or a retiree, whether you were born in the U.S. or just arrived, whether you are growing in your mother’s womb or waiting on death row, you are loved. This message, which we’ve heard for over two thousand years, is often either forgotten or garbled, and I’m thankful for Pope Francis’s tireless efforts to express it through word and deed. I want to be more like him.
I’m also grateful to the pope for several additions to my Book Bucket List. During his speech to Congress, he highlighted four Americans – Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton, “who for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future.” Although I know a bit about each of them and even read Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness in high school, now I’m curious to learn more. So I’ll eventually make my way through these books, which belong to my favorite genre: Stories about People Who Aren’t Perfect But Do Good Anyway:
- Team of Rivals (Doris Kearns Goodwin)
- Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
- Loaves and Fishes: The Inspiring Story of the Catholic Worker Movement (Dorothy Day)
- The Seven Storey Mountain: An Autobiography of Faith (Thomas Merton)
- In her recent book Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job, Kerry Weber chronicles her attempts to perform the Corporal Works of Mercy in her New York City community during Lent. It’s funny, touching, and inspiring.
- Listen to this episode of On Being with Krista Tippett as she interviews Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest and founder/executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. I dare you not to cry.