Friday, November 20, 2015

Listening to the Pope and reading what he actually said: There's a website for that.

The Holy See, Vatican News, Vatican Radio.

Whenever I read what the Pope actually said, within context - especially within official context - he is not preaching a new gospel as some allege.  Frequently he echoes Benedict, John Paul II, Paul VI - his predecessors.  I don't understand what people are talking about in their confusion, feeling they are beaten down, and so on.  Maybe it really is the way I was brought up that what the Holy Father says and how he says it doesn't feel like abuse to me?

As I've said time and again - or at least referenced, I come from a dysfunctional family - a lot of people do, I know that.  I come from a harsh and abusive background - a lot of people do, I know that as well.

As a little kid I loved Stanislaus Kostka because he once 'suffered' staying in a Lutheran household - today I can't recall the details - but it was a trial for him.  His older brother was also something of a bully.  There were other saints who came from abusive, faithless childhoods, or who were disowned by their families - Elizabeth of Hungary, for instance.  These saints gave me hope, enkindled devotion and sustained my faith.  Priests and school sisters suggested to me I was being escapist in my piety - that my piety was merely a coping mechanism, or an effort to gain approval and esteem.  Imagine that.

Some traditionalists think the Pope might be saying something similar to them.  Imagine that.

Stanislaus beaten by his brother.

Imagine that.

Growing up, my family did not practice the faith - I went to Mass and confession alone.  A little kid all alone at Mass.  No one talked to me, welcomed me, asked where my family was.  Imagine that.

My family made fun of me for being religious - they knew I was a bad kid - so they pointed out my hypocrisy - 'go to confession Saturday and act like a creep after Mass on Sunday'.  'Only sissies go to church anyway.'

For most of my life, almost all of my friends and family were apathetic about religion, and or, away from the Church.  Today, some may follow other denominations, others just do not 'speak' or 'understand' Catholic. They don't like church people, or religious people. I grew up like that.  A frequent comment over the years has been, "Well if the Church is so good - how come you're not any better."

Recently in an interview, actress Jennifer Lawrence said something to the effect, that she grew up around fundamentalist Christians, and therefore knows what they are like.  I know what she means - yet a Catholic blogger found what she said offensive and dismissed her for it.  Imagine that.

From my first confession and first communion on, I was the outsider. I too know what these people can be like. Faithful Catholics didn't know - although some did - what was going on in my childhood.  If they did, I carried the sins, the shame of my parents whenever and wherever I went.  I could explain in detail, but I would be accused of whining.  That's not my intention - in fact, I'm grateful for the experience, it toughened me up and helped me to recognize my own sins better.  The mercy of God is glorified.

I still have a couple of childhood friends who remain Catholic - a couple are very faithful, a couple of others may be more the CINO-type, the ones faithful Catholics tend to condemn because they are too liberal. I fell into that trap for awhile - I think I've left that behind now. No one wanted me telling them how or what to believe, what to think, or exactly how messed up their thinking was.

I started to take care of myself instead - to examine my own conscience - and I continue to always discover my need for repentance.

Now I'm glad that we have a Pope who speaks clearly - who speaks and understands the language of ordinary people, in ordinary time.

That's a long intro, to some recent quotes from the Holy Father which I want to highlight - demonstrating his sense of urgency for the time in which we live, and our need for mercy and love.

To the German Bishops:
He turned the bishops attention to the biblical figures of Priscilla and Aquila, the married couple who witnessed with their words and lives to the love of Christ.
“The example of these ‘volunteers’ can help us reflect, given the trend towards a growing institutionalization,” Pope Francis said.
“We always inaugurate new facilities, from which, in the end, the faithful are missing,” Pope Francis said.
“It is a sort of new Pelagianism, which puts its trust in administrative structures, in perfect organizations” – the Pope continued – “excessive centralization, rather than helping, complicates the life of the Church and her missionary dynamics.”
He told the bishops to give more attention to Confession during the Jubilee of Mercy, since “in Confession is the beginning of the transformation of each individual Christian and the reform of the Church.”
“It is also necessary to highlight the intimate connection between the Eucharist and the priesthood,” the Holy Father said.
“The precious collaboration of the laity, especially in those places where vocations are missing, cannot become a surrogate for the ministerial priesthood, or give it the semblance of being simply optional,” he said. “If there is no priest, there is no Eucharist.” - Source

I'm reminded of Pope Benedict XVI speaking about a smaller Church, the loss of institutions and so on - a simpler, poorer Church.  I think Francis and Benedict are very close.

For priests:

The Pope said a priest is “a man of peace” who surrounds himself with serenity, even during hardships.
“It is not normal for a priest to be often sad, nervous, or of a hard character; it is not good, and does no good, neither for the priest nor for his people,” he said.
Pope Francis said “our humanity is the ‘clay pot’ in which we guard the treasure of God,” and so care must be taken to protect it.
The Holy Father reminded priests they are called “to serve our brothers and sisters.”
“We are not priests for our own sake, and our sanctification is closely linked to that of our people, our anointing to their anointing,” he said, adding priests should be “authoritative, not authoritarian; firm, but not hard; joyful, but not superficial…in short, shepherds, not functionaries.” - Source

Christmas charade.

Pope Francis recalled, “Jesus is in heaven, watching us”, and “he will come to us here, on the altar”. But “today too, Jesus weeps, because we have chosen the way of war, the way of hatred, the way of hostility”. This is even more glaring now that “we are approaching Christmas: there will be lights, there will be parties, trees lit up, even nativity scenes... all decorated: the world continues to wage war, to wage wars. The world has not comprehended the way of peace”. - Source

Growing up, Christmas was always a charade at my house ... I know exactly what the Pope is saying.

I'm grateful I never had a comfortable life, a warm and cozy life - otherwise how would I know?

I may try to go to Rome to die next year.


  1. I'm not sure I support the part about dying (though we all gotta do it and I suppose Rome would be as good a place as any) but I am very excited to hear you're thinking about leading a pilgrimage to Rome! Normally I balk at the promotional tie-in of pilgrimages/vacations/holy sightseeing trips led by Catholic celebrities, but I would sign up for a Terry Nelson tour in a heartbeat.

    I would especially look forward to the "nights with Willie" part where we all ate at the Vatican soup kitchens and slept rough outside of St. Peter's Square.

    You could hire Elizabeth Lev, not just for outstanding museum tours but to share her testimony about how to survive scandal and Catholic opprobrium and still be a lovely human being.

    You could call your company "Penance and Pasta Pilgrimages, by Terry."

    Terry, we love you. We want you to live!

    1. Thanks Josh - I love Elizabeth Lev BTW - maybe I'll drive to Rome - I'll stop and pick up you and the wife and kids. ;)


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