Columnists Mark my words

Shake up things in this messy world

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich


I burst out laughing when I saw that word, as well as the phrase “pickled-pepper faces.” Who uses such colorful words?

The answer may surprise you: Pope Francis. Don’t believe me? Well, “sourpusses” is found in “The Joy of the Gospel” (85) and he used “pickled-pepper faces” in a morning Mass homily on May 10, 2013.

I love words. That’s certainly part of why I enjoy being an editor and a columnist. So, you can imagine my thrill when I received a new book — “A Pope Francis Lexicon,” edited by Joshua J. McElwee and Cindy Wooden — right before Lent.

The hardback, published by Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minnesota, sells for $24.95 and is worth every cent.

As you’d expect in a lexicon, the 50-plus entries are in alphabetical order, from “Baptism” to “Youth.” The short essays, usually three or four pages long, are written by an impressive array of bishops, theologians and journalists.

More than the usual sound bytes of “what the pope said or meant” that we often get from TV, the internet or bloggers, these very readable entries give readers a chance to unpack many of the concepts so close to Pope Francis’ heart.

For example, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago masterfully explains the pope’s image of the church as a “field hospital.” When the pope says, “Jesus knocks from within so that we will let him come out,” Cardinal Cupich notes: “Those who have the bandages go to those with the wounds. They don’t sit back in their offices waiting for the needy to come to them. . . . Bringing the medicine of mercy to the world is the most effective way for the disciples of Jesus to recapture the joy of the Gospel.”

Naturally, joy is one of the attributes that many people admire so much in Pope Francis. To that end, the book includes many entries that contribute to that theme: “Embrace” (by Simcha Fisher); “Hope” (by Natalia Imperatori-Lee); “Joy” (by Timothy Radcliffe, OP); and “Mercy” (by Archbishop Donald Bolen).

But the pope is a realist and doesn’t shy away from challenging believers to confront their own sinfulness. The essay on “Gossip,” written by Kaya Oakes, is an excellent illustration of this. The pope describes gossip as “idle chatter that divides,” and even more vividly as “a habit of terrorism. . . . of how you can kill a person with your tongue.”

Particularly in light of social media and “fake news,” the pope’s words deserve much reflection.

Another theme almost always on the pope’s mind is the plight of the poor and refugees. Two entries — “Throwaway culture” (by Pat Farrell, OSF) and “Dignity” (by Tina Beattie) — summarize Pope Francis’ concerns well.

Regarding the dignity of every person, the pope said in 2015: “We must never forget the various attacks on the sacredness of human life. The plague of abortion is an attack on life. Allowing our brothers and sisters to die on boats in the strait in Sicily is an attack on life. Dying on the job because the minimum safety standards are not respected is an attack on life. Death from malnutrition is an attack on life. . . . Loving life means always taking care of the other, wanting the best for him, cultivating and respecting her transcendent dignity.”

In discussing the throwaway culture, these words of Pope Francis from a general audience in 2013 tear at the heart: “That some homeless people freeze to death on the street, that is not news. On the other hand, a drop of 10 points in the stock markets of some cities is a tragedy. That is how people are thrown away. We, people, are thrown away as if we were trash.”

Although Pope Francis is well aware that we live in a “messy” world, Mollie Wilson O’Reilly notes in her essay on “Worldliness”: “For Francis, the world is not to be feared or held at arm’s length, but embraced — provided we remember that it is God’s kingdom and not ours.”

And that’s why the pope is constantly encouraging especially young people to “Hagan lío,” or “shake things up.” According to Father Manuel Dorantes, hagan lío is “an order to shake off the anesthesia [of smartphones, video games, etc.], to leave the sofa behind, to get out of oneself to encounter others, especially the poor in our midst.”

How lucky we are to have a pope who leads us by word and action. So, sourpusses, beware!

Hagan lío, Pope Francis. Keep shaking things up!

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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