Whether you are Catholic or not, there’s much to be learned from newly chosen Pope Francis.
Like the saint from which he took his name, the new spiritual leader of the world’s Catholics has already proven himself a humble man who has a deep compassion for the world’s poor, a stance we would all do well to emulate.
Sadly, there is no shortage of poor people in this vast world. Sader still is the fact that there are far fewer people who recognize the great poverty in their midst or understand the role each of us blessed to have plenty should want to play in helping to end it.
Here in America, in the arguably wealthiest nation in the world — the land of plenty, if you will — statistics show we have more people living in wrenching poverty than in any other moment in this country’s history.
Think about it — great poverty in a land of great wealth. How can it be? How can we allow it?
Yet the truth can be seen in schools, where the best meals — and sometimes the only meals — many youngsters receive comes from the cafeteria five days a week; it can be seen on street corners and in alleyways, where homeless men and women are often gathered, sheltering from life’s storms in whatever area they can find, surviving on food offered at church soup kitchens or from donations offered by passers-by.
Pope Francis, who less than two weeks ago was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, has spent his life working to make life better for those less fortunate, understanding what the Bible makes very clear — to those much is given, much is expected.
Perhaps it’s in the language of that admonition that we get tripped up. Maybe if we don’t perceive ourselves as being enormously wealthy, we don’t believe it becomes our duty to help the less fortunate. After all, we convince ourselves, when it hurts our pocketbooks more and more when we leave the grocer’s checkout counter, is it really possible to help someone else.
Only we, deep in our hearts know the real answer to that question. And only we, deep in our souls, can find the compassion it needs to help another person.
It may take looking at poverty as a circumstance beyond most people’s control rather than a problem someone has brought upon themselves.
Perhaps it will take looking at poverty through the eyes of someone like Pope Francis who sees hurt and wants to ease it; who sees hunger and wants to crush it; who sees need and wants to meet it.
Pope Francis, as has been written numerous times since he was named last week, is a moral force for a planet that truly needs one.
Poverty is but one area where our moral compass needs to be directed. It’s a big one, and we hope, whether Catholic or not, we can take a long, hard look at the compassion this man shows and find it in our hearts to show more of our own.