Sunday, March 31, 2013

Becoming Peter

But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."
 -- Matthew 16:23
There is a lot of concern expressed by the "traditionalists" regarding some of the actions of Pope Francis. I don't consider myself to be a "traditionalist", but I do love the traditions of the Church. I also know that one of the tactics of the humanist/atheist/socialist enemies of the Church is to attack tradition as being old-fashioned and out-of-date. The secular news has been abuzz with every small change that Pope Francis makes and they quickly spin the story to suggest that this might be the beginning of bigger changes in the direction of "female priests", "gay marriage", etc.

So there are two major reasons for the Pope to be careful to respect the traditions of the Church.

The first is that this is a historical treasure that could be easily lost. The symbolism of tradition speaks loudly to the mind and the soul. It conveys a sense of the ineffable quality of Christianity. It shows the world the grandeur of the Church. The images of the Vatican during the ceremonies marking the beginning of the papacy of Francis are powerful and moving. A hollywood director would love to have a set like that it his disposal because these are primal images which move the soul. No one can deny their reality and their significance -- whether they like what they represent or not. These images and these traditions are signs to the world and part of what they convey is a history and a tradition which is powerful and relevant.

The second reason that the Pope must be careful to respect tradition is wrapped up in the first. When the enemies of the Church see a slight deviation in tradition, they use this as a weapon to attack other traditions which are more central to the Church. And they use it as a way to paint a portrait of the Pope as one who is unconcerned with upholding tradition and Church teaching.

Benedict described how the media created their own version of Vatican II -- the bad version. And yet this is the version that was communicated most effectively to the Catholic public and this in turn shaped the opinion of the Catholic laity -- and even many members of the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy. The same forces are at work today, which is why Pope Francis needs to be very careful in his words and in his actions.

We can take some solace in the fact that St. Peter himself did not at first seem like a great Pope. He seemed to fail at every task and test that came his way -- for instance at the Transfiguration and at the Crucifixion. Pray for us, St. Peter, and pray for the Holy Father.

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