Popes of My Youth & The Universal Call to Holiness

Or: The one where Luke turns up a month late to the pope party.

Pope Francis not giving his official approval to this blog.

With the first month of his papacy behind us, the dust is now beginning to settle after the election of Pope Francis. But beyond his baby kissing and crowd pleasing, the most apparent feature of Pope Francis to me is his unique humility and charity. Sure, his preference for the cardinals’ minibus, refusal to live in the papal apartments and personal payment of an outstanding hotel bill have been widely reported – but a look deeper reveals much more.

A few quick examples will suffice. At his first Urbi et Orbi blessing directly following his election, before the blessing-proper Pope Francis asked onlookers to pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and to pray for himself – not just at some point in the future prayer, but there and then as he bowed before the St Peter’s Square crowds! There is also the meeting of the new pope and his predecessor at Castel Gandolfo, where Benedict XVI offered Francis the place of primacy in the chapel – to which he replied “we are brothers” and invited the former pope to join him in his pew. Finally, in his Missa pro Ecclesia homily Pope Francis implored the faithful to profess Christ in all things, interestingly stating: “If we do not profess Christ… [w]e may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord”.

Each of these examples demonstrates a man who puts Christ and His example at the centre of his life – and thus others before himself. I recall what a friend once said to me: Christians are called to JOY – Jesus first, Others next, and Yourself last. This “JOY” is the visible motif of Francis’ papacy thus far. Continue reading

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A man reads “Style, Sex, & Substance”

Or: The one where Luke stumbles into the ladies’ bathroom and writes a blog post about it.

Real men read pink.

Honest, real, human. There seem to be few words that are used more in reference to literature these days. And yet there are few words which have acquired a stranger meaning with repeated use. Today, a tale of a wife leaving the responsibility of a family to “find herself” in a casual Italian fling is described as honest. A sociopathic man engaging in domestic imprisonment is considered real. And a graphic depiction of dehumanising violence – sexual and otherwise – is celebrated as “all too human”. Sure enough, between The Fall and the Beatific VIsion these scenarios may be honest, real, or even human in a way. But our tired usage has confined these words to a narrow corner of meaning that excludes just about anything vaguely virtuous – even to the point of treating it with suspicion.

It is with this long-winded introduction that I find myself happy to read a book that kicks down the walls which we have been set around the honest, the real, and the human. Style, Sex, & Substance┬áis a beaming smile of mirth in the face of the botox-induced smile of hedonism and celebrated vice. It is a genuine account by 10 Catholic women of the ups and downs of “the things that really matter”, in all their fleshiness. Continue reading