With the Papal visit to the U.S. now part of history, Father Maher, who served as an expert correspondent for several national media outlets during the visit, offered reflection on the messages Pope Francis delivered during his time in the U.S.
One of the more powerful images of the sacred scriptures is of Mary, the mother of Jesus, making a powerful proclamation of faith known as the Magnificat. In this prayer from the Gospel of Luke, Mary proclaims, from the depths of her soul, the greatness of God, as well God’s closeness to the poor and marginalized, and reaffirms the salvation He offers to all who will accept it.
Over the last week, I was blessed to have the opportunity to travel to New York City and Washington, D.C., to witness and comment on Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States. The most vivid image I took with me from my experience on the south lawn of the White House was of large SUVs driving through the motorcade, followed closely by a simple Fiat with the Holy Father in the back seat.
The vehicle is a wonderful representation of Pope Francis living “fiat,” his creed for life, and the gift that he imparts on the world. In essence, it symbolizes a proclamation of his core expression of faith, or his Magnificat. Pope Francis, like Mary, implores us all to be fully present to each other on the journey of faith and life, exercising compassionate care for the poor and our environment, heeding the call to live simply, and living in God’s generous, compassionate mercy.
All of us can conjure up powerful images of the Pope’s visit, from meetings with immigrants to the interfaith service at Ground Zero, to Mass and prayer in cathedrals and sports arenas. Personally, I will never forget Pope Francis’ address to the joint session of Congress, during which he sought to tell the American story through citation of four iconic individuals: Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Each of these American trailblazers left us blessings and legacy gifts. For Lincoln, it was the gift of liberty and the birth of freedom for African-Americans. For King, it was the dream of racial equality and political and civil rights. Dorothy Day gave us the blessing of the Catholic worker movement and community, while Thomas Merton challenged the certitudes of his time and was a contemplative voice for the poor.
Throughout Pope Francis’ address, I was particularly struck by the gentle firmness of his voice and his repetition of the phrase, “I would like to dialogue with you.” What a wonderful challenge to the leaders of our country, to begin with dialogue and seek to listen and understand one another. In addressing immigration and the refugee crisis, he offered the powerful statement, “We have nothing to fear from the stranger.” As we listen to the rhetoric of some politicians on immigration during campaign season, what an inspiring challenge Pope Francis poses to the leaders and citizens of our great county.
In our continued reflection of the visit by Pope Francis, may we all be challenged, individually and collectively, to develop our “fiat,” the creed and proclamation by which we live – our relationship with each other, our care for the poor and the earth, our lifestyle, living with overflowing compassionate mercy, and our willingness to proclaim the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.