Grace made perfect

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St Peter in Prison by Rembrandt

The recent Climate Change light show at St Peter’s Square have made a number of us uneasy. Some believe that it reflects negatively on Pope Francis and the Vatican Curia. For what they’re worth, here are my thoughts.


 

I know there is an unspoken fatwa among certain Catholics that consider the St Malachi list of Popes strictly verboten but I don’t care for such extra-magisterial prohibitions so here I go. In the famous medieval prophecy Pope Benedict XVI is de Gloria Olivae “the glory of the olive tree” and Francis should then be Petrus Romanus, Peter the Roman. Both names given by the Irish saint to our last two Popes before the Triumph, are very significant.  The olive tree is a fitting symbol symbol of resurrection because one can easily grow a whole new tree from a severed branch. From the olive tree we get the sacramental oil for various uses in liturgy, it is in that sense, a life giving tree. One can see that even an interrupted papacy like Benedict’s may by virtue of his charism be renewed and made younger and stronger. It is like a divine guarantee of continuity.

As for Francis, or Peter the Roman… the symbol obviously points at two things: one is the foundational character of his papacy, just like St Peter’s. Our first Pope was unsteady to say the least, that was the weakness he had to contend with. In my view Peter represents the human potential for good, sprinkled (sometimes generously) with man’s natural inclination to screw things up. He has the unique characteristic of having been blessed by the Holy Trinity only to receive a divine rebuke a minute later when he tried his hand at prophecy (“such thing will not happen to You, Lord!” Matthew 16:21-23.) The following week he was the only one uttering nonsense after being a witness to the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-4.) His companions noted “he did not know what he was saying!” Yet from that man, God made an Apostle and a great Pope, a model for all the popes to come, like a new Moses of sorts. The unlearned Galilean fisherman an old, thickheaded, stubborn, cowardly man was our first Pope, almost a catalog of all the things a great leader should not be. So this new Petrus Romanus has some serious weaknesses. Why? St Paul has the answer:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The evident intellectual shortcomings of Jorge Bergoglio, will be the reason why we will recognize later the power of God to make a perfect model of the glaringly imperfect man. God did it with Peter, He can do it again with Francis. It is only a sign of God’s presence and power. [1]

Here in BA I had a brief contact with a group of very active heretics. They follow a very eloquent man (we will call him “Erroneous”) who dabbles in many books. His talk is as high sounding as it is deeply asinine. That person has managed to steer a number of people, including many priests in various countries seducing them with the ideas of Romano Amerio and Antonio Socci. For many Argentine Catholics “Erroneous“ is the pope and we are a bunch of fools following Francis, a false pope. They have a certain idea of what a good Pope should be and since Francis does not fit their idea … they conclude that “God must have made a mistake, may be He is on vacation, or got distracted by something.” Of course I am being facetious.

Returning to the original idea: we have two popes for a reason. The two popes are a mark on time, one so clear that we won’t miss it. I have been thinking about it for a while.  If you have time see my reflection on the article The year of Liberation written a few months ago. Don’t be distracted by human weakness, there is enough of that to go around. Instead focus on what God’s hand is doing. I think that is the right way to look at it.

Some of us believe that “thoughts of men” have gradually invaded the minds of many in the Church and that does not exclude the Pope. Many Popes in the past have had their own ideas outside the realm of faith and morals. There is nothing new there. If it happened to St Peter it can happen to anyone.  In fact St Peter’s shortcomings are registered in the Gospels for our benefit. Paraphrasing Fr. Hardon: “Why did God allow Judas to be a bishop? To make us aware that there would be bad bishops.”

Following Fr Hardon’s line of reasoning we could ask ourselves why Jesus allowed Peter to (a) suggest that the Passion should be avoided, and (b) to make tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah after seeing the Transfiguration? One could respond: To make us aware that even Popes can have a foolish inconsequential thought from time to time.

I would also add that our Lord allowed all the other apostles to witness those events silently and respectfully. Then came Peter’s three denials of the Lord and yet no one questioned Peter’s authority, no one disrespected him. In fact the Sunday morning after Calvary when the disciples got the news of the Resurrection, young John arrived first at the empty tomb but patiently waited outside until Peter arrived, allowing him to come in first. (see Sunday Morning.) Later on Jesus appeared to them and quietly reminded Peter of his three denials but in the end He confirmed Peter’s authority and commissioned our first Pope to confirm his brethren also (John 21:15-19.)

The Pope won’t fail to teach the truth in faith and morals. We have Jesus’ unfailing guarantee for that. Even if a Pope were to say or do the most outrageous things we can be sure Jesus will take care of that through corrections or even a rebuke but still we are under his authority and Christ’s. God’s kingdom -the Church-  is a monarchy, not a democracy.

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[1] I do not mean to be disrespectful to Pope Francis, I only point at the fact that, compared to his two predecessors, he appears to be an intellectual lightweight. More glory to God if He makes a great Pope out of Francis in spite of the man’s shortcomings, and more merit to those who obey Francis dutifully in the same manner that the other eleven apostles of Christ obeyed St Peter.

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2 thoughts on “Grace made perfect

  1. God can make a strength out of our weaknesses. In Pope Francis’ case, his weakness could be a political naivety, that sees him espousing left-wing opinion regarding world government, solving the problem of poverty and climate change, which has emboldened the liberals in the Church to regard him as an ally and show their hand only to find him turn out to be quite orthodox in matters of faith and morals. He has, perhaps unwittingly, enabled us to know our enemy, the first step to defeating him according to Sun-Tzu.

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    • Yes, Mickvet. I do not claim to know what is going on there in the upper echelons of the Church. All I know is what I have learned: without the Eucharist, Our Blessed Mother Mary, and the Bishop of Rome, we are not Catholics. There are many things about Pope Francis that I can’t understand but I know I do not have to follow his political views, or his opinions on Climate Change, or like the food he likes. His area of authority is still faith and morals, the rest is optional. A warning to the wise, there is an article posted in a so-called traditional blog in 2013 dispersing misinformation and quoting certain venomous “catholic page.” I can tell you that the “catholic page” quoted there is not Catholic at all. Anyone reading the violent, thuggish comments in there can conclude that much. Pope Francis is leading the Church in a difficult time, most likely he will have to lay down his life for her. He deserves our undivided obedience in faith and morals but we are not supposed to follow his opinions or root for his favorite football team.

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