Like many of you, I am a fan of Pope Francis. I love St. Francis and went to Franciscan University, so he had me at his choice of patrons.
When photos started circulating of him washing the feet of the poor, taking public transportation and paying his hotel bill, I was smitten.
Clearly the third pope in my lifetime would continue to lead Team Catholic, and maybe surprise us a bit, too.
With every unconventional move Pope Francis has made — from cruising around in clunky cars to making personal phone calls — I’ve been cheering him on from his twitter feed (@Pontifex) and the Pope App I have on my iPhone.
Jolly good times, watching him from afar.
Then, Pope Francis dropped a bomb, figuratively speaking.
In his Sept. 1 Angelus message, Pope Francis made an appeal for us to all pray and fast for peace in the world, especially for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria.
If you’re like me, you hear an appeal to pray and fast and think, “OK, I’ll be sure to kind of remember this intention next time I’m at Mass.” I’m ashamed to admit I often fail to remember to actually pray when I said I would.
Then he gave a specific date, Sept. 7. He closed with the invitation for everyone to return to St. Peter’s to pray for peace with a peppy, “I expect you next Saturday at seven o’clock in the evening!”
The pope is asking us to fast on Saturday?
Good Friday and Ash Wednesday I’ll fast with the best of ‘em, but Saturday is the day to have bacon! The evening for a few drinks!
Suddenly, following Pope Francis was threatening to cramp my style.
This was more than reading his tweets or “oohing” over the pictures of him kissing yet another baby.
This request of Pope Francis made me realize that I was fine with being a fan of the pope, but following his example might be harder.
The pope was challenging me to imitate Christ and to sacrifice in a new and uncomfortable way and I’d be lying if I said the thought of missing out on Saturday breakfast caused me to hesitate before I committed.
Was it fun to skip bacon and drink water that night? No. Did it allow me to share in the teeny-tiniest way in the sufferings of Christ and therefore nudge me, ever so gently, closer to my goal of heaven?
Yes. Fasting and praying on Saturday made me less of a fan of Pope Francis when it made me uncomfortable, but it made me more of a follower of Christ.
This week, Pope Francis will have been in office for six months. If, in that time, you’ve become a huge fan of what he’s doing that’s a good first step.
However, don’t just be a fan of the pope — let his life be a challenge to follow Christ and grow in your Catholic faith. Especially when it’s uncomfortable.
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