A Jesuit to the Core: Pope Francis Manifests Sincere Practice of Exercises
Yesterday, news started floating around that Pope Francis has declared an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy that starts this year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Thank God. I like it when there are fire sales on grace, and I appreciate any chance I can get a bargain, especially on Heavenly treasures. I am more and more intrigued by Pope Francis, however, because his reasons for making this Jubilee year have to do with his contemplation of his own end. There are two ways of looking at this, and unfortunately, many have fostered a very dim view of Francis. I predicted this from the very start of his papacy.
The other view is to see that Francis follows a very traditional, in fact, perfect expression of Western Spirituality, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Among the counsels of the Spiritual exercises, one thing that has changed my life is the insistence of Ignatius that we must, at times, consider what we are doing through the lens of how we’d want to explain the decision at the time of our own particular judgment. I have expressed this numerous times, we are all heading towards that moment, so we ought to consider now how we want today to be described then. Unfortunately, this is a forgotten practice today, and the standard American Catholic has adopted enough worldliness that they shirk at the idea and think it excessively morbid. Worse, as Fr. Hardon pointed out many times, some Freudian definitions would render such thoughts as schizophrenic.
The reality is that Francis is manifesting a very traditional spirituality. DeJak has pointed this out before, that Francis is too traditional to be understood by moderns. It’s true. An entire era has now passed where felt banners and feel good emotionalism has replaced the simple truths of life, especially in the Church catechism — yet another fallout of how AmChurch destroyed Catholic life in America.
Traditional catechisms tell us things like this:
“[B]y the Sacrament of Penance the debt of eternal punishment due to the sinner is remitted, but not the temporal. This he must discharge either in this world by sickness, adversity, temptation, persecution, voluntary works of penance, and the like, or in the fires of purgatory after death. This is exemplified by the holy penitent, Mary of Egypt. For seventeen years she led a sinful life; after her conversion she did penance in the desert for seventeen years. Her penance consisted in horrible temptations, in hunger and thirst, in sufferings from exposure to cold and heat. It was the same with other penitents. “
Catechism Explained (3d ed. 1920). Coincidentally, you can read the life of St. Mary of Egypt here, as I have posted on her many times in the past. Her story is traditionally read next Monday in Eastern Churches because of the rich example of life she left for us. Her story is the good news of our redemption: There is eternal life for everyone who repents and follows the Gospel!
Francis has apparently been thinking of his own death and what account he must give to the Master Who gave him a talent. In his own words:
The decision to announce the jubilee may reflect Francis’s apparent belief that he is not destined to spend a long time in St Peter’s.
“I have a feeling my pontificate will be brief,” he told Mexico’s Televisa channel in an interview to mark his anniversary. “Four or five years, I don’t know. Two years have already gone by.
“It is a vague feeling I have that the Lord chose me for a short mission. I am always open to that possibility.”
Now, the worldly interpretation of the news hides what Francis is actually saying. He is making plans and doing things based on his pending death. St. Ignatius would be proud of his son in Francis. Says Fr. Hardon of the exercises and particularly on death and judgement:
“What is most satisfying to know and how we should remind the Savior of this daily.
“You know who is going to judge us? Isn’t it great? Jesus.
“Isn’t that marvelous?
“We’ve seen a lot of each other during life. Well, he’s going to judge us when as we say we die evidently not as though he’s got to somehow in some crude sense have to weigh the pros and cons of our life. It is just to inform us, that’s all, and one of the difficulties with the word judgment is that, don’t you agree, it has an adverse connotation. Don’t you think so?
“We kind of assume that a judge, well, judges and judges people who have done wrong and while judges do also acquit in ordinary human language we usually associate judgment with inflicting a penalty. Consequently, while reflecting necessarily on the fact that we shall be judged because we have done wrong, the more we can convince ourselves of the fact that we shall be judged indeed according to our deeds we shall also be judged according to God’s mercy.”
I highlighted that last quip of Fr. Hardon to emphasize the thinking here: God’s judgment is different than those of the United States courts. Our Judge, after all, is Jesus. Thank God! And with Jesus, there is mercy.
A holy Jubilee of Mercy it is from Pope Francis. Thank God!
Most of the pontificates have been peasants, and perhaps that is, like Peter, they don’t always speak well, but they get it. Francis gets it, even if his gruff comments at times are exploited into a reason to not like him.
This article, A Jesuit to the Core: Pope Francis Manifests Sincere Practice of Exercises is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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