For this series of teaching editorials, writers will focus on the “Francis Effect,” especially in light of recent issues that our Holy Father has addressed.
As Pope Francis traveled to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia at the end of September — proclaiming the visit’s theme: “Love is Our Mission” — it was hard to find news coverage that didn’t involve him.
Remarkably there was little griping about it. In fact, believers and non-believers alike swapped stories and quotes they’d heard, excited to share how our Holy Father inspired them.
Non-Catholics seemed to be amazed by Pope Francis’ open kindness and his attention to children, the poor and prisoners. Catholics, who expected this, were similarly amazed by seeing these actions here in their own cities. Pope Francis shined a light on the problems of poverty and the possibilities for redemption we possess here in the United States — in a Harlem school and a Philadelphia prison, for instance.
When he invoked the legacies of four great Americans during his historic address to Congress — it was the first papal address to a joint session — there seemed to be a collective swelling of pride.
To speak of our liberty, Pope Francis pointed to President Abraham Lincoln, who ushered in an end to slavery and was assassinated in office.
Of liberty free from discrimination, he pointed to The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the march for civil rights from Selma to Montgomery. “That dream continues to inspire us all,” he noted.
On social activism, Pope Francis highlighted Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement in New York. Today that movement in Louisville helps provide a hospitality house for immigrants.
Finally, on openness to God and capacity for dialogue, he invoked our own Thomas Merton, Trappist of the Abbey of Gethsemani here in Kentucky.
These, Pope Francis said, are great Americans, our models.
He also reminded us how we can be great Americans: Follow the “golden rule.” Only apple pie and baseball have larger legacies in the United States than this rule.
Throughout his visit, Pope Francis tugged at the heartstrings of America and framed them in terms of social justice, Christian mercy and Gospel values.
It’s inspiring to think that the hallmarks of the USA dovetail with our Catholic faith. Pope Francis has shown us how seamlessly they fit together.
And it all boils down to the theme of his visit: Love is our mission.
It is our mission; it always has been. From the raising of children, to caring for the sick and providing for the impoverished, our mission as Catholics and
Americans is to love one another in everything we do.
During his visit to the United Nations, Pope Francis told employees of that agency, “Today, and everyday, I would ask each of you, whatever your capacity, to care for one another.”
Matthew Schuhmann, who coordinates annual giving for the Archdiocese of Louisville — including the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) — told Record reporter Jessica Able: “That’s essentially our message and what CSA dollars do.”
The CSA supports the archdiocese’s programs and services, including Catholic Charities, which serves struggling families, elderly people in need, young mothers, refugees, victims of human trafficking and others with a variety of programs.
The appeal also supports the diaconate office, which offers formation for deacons who then go on to minister in our parishes, to the homeless, with recovering addicts and to prisoners, to name a few.
The list goes on and on. If Pope Francis has inspired you, let him move you to action by taking part in the CSA and praying and caring for one another.