By now it has escaped no one’s notice that Pope Francis arrived in the United States yesterday. Perhaps you’ve seen the video of his arrival and greeting by President Obama on the tarmac. (You can find it here.)
The Pope’s six-day visit is packed, with activities ranging from an address to Congress (the first time a Pope has given a speech to Congress), the canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, a multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center, and a visit to a correctional facility. (You can find the full schedule here.)
First and foremost, the Pope is a spiritual leader, and this visit is an exciting one for Catholics. But it will be worthwhile for everyone to listen to what the Pope says during his visit. As has been the case from the beginning of his papacy, this is a Pope who challenges all of us – left or right, Republican or Democrat, Catholics of all stripes, all Christians, indeed, all “people of good will.”
Some will be ready to criticize whatever the Pope says – whether it is about climate change, the economy, or anything else. Others will criticize things he doesn’t say, such as those who think he should change the Church’s position on issues like contraception or women’s ordination.
My encouragement is to listen and reflect on his words, whether they are spoken at a Mass homily or before Congress. And find a forum for discussion of his message. For example the Church closest to where I live will host a Thursday evening gathering where people listen to a tape of the address before Congress and then discuss. The Church at which I direct RCIA will have a program between Masses on Sunday to discuss the themes of Pope Francis’ papacy. Whatever the venue you find – let the first step be listening and reflecting.