Pope can lead church into a new way of life

Michael Langan’s March 24 Viewpoints tribute to our new Pope Francis reads more like a prayerful meditation on the life of a humble man raised to the ranks of a modern-day saint. His carefully crafted reflection contextualizes Francis not only in church history, but as one who will incorporate his Jesuit and Franciscan spirituality into contemporary culture.

Langan’s brilliant portrayal of the new pope provides not only Catholics, but all people, with a refreshing, resilient recruit to a suffering and struggling world.

The same year that Francis was created cardinal so, too, was renowned Jesuit Avery Dulles, son of John Foster Dulles, secretary of state under President Dwight Eisenhower. Before his 2008 death at Fordham University, Dulles shared his practical and profound wisdom on leadership in the American Catholic Church that went largely unheeded.

In the 1940s, another Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, came under scrutiny because some of his writing was thought by Rome to be irreconcilable with Catholic teaching. Not long after that he died on Easter Sunday 1955, his wish.

Francis may find in these predecessors great gifts as he himself comes to terms with the church’s awesome responsibility for the protection of all creation. This “simple, decent man from the new world” has his work cut out for him. Langan perfectly portrays his lifestyle not as “a monarch” but a servant “more interested in the world’s grief than in enjoying its grandeur.” This man of poverty and peace has come to lead an impoverished church into a new way of life and peace.

Perhaps his “fourth vow” is not unlike our own, to be true to ourselves and our conscience. Remember what Francis said, that our only glory is the cross and in the crucified Christ who rises gloriously in the splendor of the Easter sun.

The Rev. Art Smith