Pope Francis is visiting the United States this week. Today he addressed the Congress and created quite a stir. What do you say to a group of politicians in these troubled times? I suppose he could have talked for hours on a variety of topics but he chose wisely and prudently I think, mentioning many of the world issues that need attention.
He chose four Americans to illustrate his points: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. A president, two activists and a monk are the models given for contemplation. One hundred and fifty years after the assassination of President Lincoln, the world still hungers for freedom. Great strides have been made but Pope Francis knows how religion and nations under God misuse their power, He warns us not to be tempted to feed the enemy within. Rather than imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers, he counseled people to reject violence and to be instead a people of hope and healing, of peace and justice. He spoke of unjust structures even within the developed world as obstacles that prevented freedom. He called for respect of differences.
Fifty years have passed since Martin Luther King Jr. walked from Selma to Montgomery to set in motion his dream of a new America. Dreams are meant to be put into action or they will wither away. The pope reminded us that we all are foreigners and we need not fear the other. He named the refugee crisis as a pressing concern. Everyone deserves a future of hope and healing, and he cautioned that we should not discard whatever proves troublesome. We should attempt to live by the Golden Rule and do unto others what we would want done unto ourselves. He defended the right to live, asking that the death penalty be abolished throughout the world.
Dorothy Day was an activist who the pope applauded. The world still has extreme poverty and he cited the work that she had done to change this in her little corner of the globe. Those trapped in the cycle of poverty need hope. Natural resources need to be used properly. Acknowledging his latest encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis included in the common good not only people but the earth itself and encouraged further dialogue in this regard.
Thomas Merton, a saintly monk, was Pope Francis’ last example. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions. Francis spoke of what a good leader looks like and talked about the cost of the arms race.
Pope Francis ended with this summary of the four:
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
This pope has been sowing seeds of hope and healing since he was chosen. From the beginning he has asked for prayers and he did so once again today, adding that if prayer was not in your language then send him good wishes. He is an astute leader, not without his faults, and yet, endearing on so many levels. People around the United States, not just Catholics, were impressed by what he had to say today. May God bless him.
What inspired you from today’s speech?
How will you integrate Pope Francis’ words into action?
We are a people in need of hope and healing.
Bless your servant Francis as he scatters seeds
Not knowing how they will change hearts,
Open minds, build relationships, and turn heads.