The Pope gives Catholics a new sense of "Sunday Duty"
“Pius Aeneas”, Virgil called him; “Dutiful Aeneas”. The Latin “pius” meant “duty”, to family, to society, to the gods. So Aeneas is depicted, fleeing from defeat in the Trojan War, carrying his father and holding the hand of his son.
As the Latin word moved through the flesh and blood of generations, it became two words, “pity” and “piety”.
I often think that my Catholic churches are mostly inhabited on Sundays by the pious, those fulfilling their duty to their Father in Heaven, with their children in tow. I was one of those children-in-tow, and one of those parents going and towing. I continue, in a blend of duty and gratitude toward the God of compassion and mercy I continue to find there, to go to Mass, with no father to carry and my children too distant and grown to tow.
But Pope Francis seems to be calling us not only into church and a sense of dutiful piety, but out of church with a sense of pity, of compassionate response to those on the margins. In the Gospel of the last Sunday before Lent, Jesus reached out and touched the leper, becoming ritually unclean by doing so. Francis writes, in Paragraph 49 of EvangeliiGaudium”:
49. Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk6:37).
I delight in this Pope’s call not only into my warm Catholic church to be fed at Mass, but out of my warm Catholic church, into the streets, to feed my brothers and sisters who sleep under cold bridges.
FreeLemonadeStand by John J. Daniels is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.