07 September 2015

The Chronicles of Francis: All are Welcome!


Cartoon from The Chronicles of Francis
by Pat Marrin and the National Catholic Reporter

 This week my mind is still on my profession anniversary and especially the gift my own parish has been over the past nine years or so. The parish motto is "All are Welcome!" and that was the entrance hymn for my perpetual profession liturgy 8 years ago. I remember being so proud of this as my friends and family (most of whom are not Catholics, some of whom are gay, and more of whom do not know or understand the Catholic Church except through these kinds of rare experiences.) We sang the same hymn today (Sunday) as well.

One of the birthday presents I got was from my Dominican friend. It is a collection of cartoon strips from The Chronicles of Francis by Pat Marrin. Sue has been telling me about these for awhile now but I have only seen a handful.Today after I got this BD present I was looking at an online site where past cartoons, many of which are not in the printed collection, can be viewed at gocomics.com/francis. One of the first strips I saw was this one. It struck a chord, pun intended!

Pope Francis has shown us the possibility of miracles (the NT uses the term "acts of power" or δύναμις, dunamis, rather than miracles) as he, like his Lord Jesus Christ, reveals love-in-act, the deepest "law of nature" to many who have never seen this or had forgotten what it looked like. In Francis this deep reality breaks through (explodes!) human fear, rigidity, self-preoccupation, and selfishness and we begin to see with new eyes, hear with fresh minds, and speak the Gospel with a new simplicity and clarity. It should not surprise us that we get the words dynamite and dynamism from this Greek word. (The name Francis may be a new cognate!)

I wanted to do a couple of things with this post: 1) introduce new readers to Pat Marrin's wonderful comic strip, 2) remind us all that we really are meant to be Christ's own Church, a church where truly, ALL ARE WELCOME!, and 3) remind us to pray and work for the general synod on the family as well as for Francis' visit to the United States of America at the end of this month. We saw a little of what Francis' visit might mean a couple of nights ago on 20/20 as Francis did a virtual visit with people from three US cities the Pope will not be visiting in person.

As I read through the Chronicles of Francis it was hard not to be clearly reminded (often with biting humor or touching images) that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in this Church and is seeking to live as love-in-act through each of us. Let us commit to that commission just as Francis has, and let us proceed as Valerie Herrera did recently. You will remember that Valerie is the Chicago teen who was surprised by a direct request from Francis that she sing him a song --- and, when she hesitated out of anxiety and fear, was personally urged by Francis to move forward with courage! She did. Beautifully. And as a result Valerie will never again be defined as a person merely or even mainly in terms of her skin condition. Instead she will be known (and know herself!) in terms of gospel courage and generosity.

Love-in-act was mediated by Francis that day in Chicago. He listened deeply to Valerie and her story and then asked her to do something for him. She had been truly heard and invited to speak herself clearly as a gift. And so she sang the deeper truth of herself in front of the entire world --- a world which will now see her with new eyes.  Something similar happened to the deaf man in today's (Sunday's)  Gospel lection. Jesus truly heard him and he was healed and made articulate. Miracles, δύναμις, are possible and waiting to be worked through each of us so that we might truly be a Church in whom all are welcome.