As we go to press, the focus of Pope Francis’ apostolic voyage to America has been on the first leg of the journey – his four day stop in Cuba. Historic and inspirational are just two of the adjectives to describe what we have seen thus far.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this trip, not only for its world-stage political implications but also as a practical indication of this pope’s diplomatic acumen.
The visit to Cuba was the first part of a consistent message that emphasized the Church’s prophetic vision of family and the role of personal freedom and service to all men and women.
In Cuba, the Holy Father also urged his beloved fellow religious men and women to embrace the vow of poverty. Calling poverty the “wall and mother of consecrated life” he said, “it is the mother because it gives life to a greater confidence in God. And it is the wall because it protects one from worldliness.”
This continuous call to poverty, not just for those in religious life, but for all Catholics, is unsettling for many of us. Poverty does not necessarily mean living as a homeless person, nor does it mean a complete rejection of wealth and the proper use of wealth, but it means above all else, recognizing that all is a gift of God.
Sagely, Pope Francis writes: “Bad accountants are great for the church, because they make it free, make it poor. God wants it to be poor… Blessed are the poor of the heart, those who aren’t attached to money.”
Pope Francis is not calling for socialism, and he is certainly not a socialist or communist as some have charged. Instead, he is one who calls for a recognition that we are totally, completely dependent on God and God alone. Poverty means to see all through the eyes of poverty, recognizing not only the poverty in the one coming to you for help but ultimately, the poverty in oneself. It means recognizing the desperate need that exists in ourselves to express ourselves to the world as a child of God the most high.
The pope called upon everyone to embrace the role of service to our fellow men and women. It is only through service that we find fulfillment.
As Venerable Catherine McAuley wrote: “The Master and Lord of our House and Home is a faithful provider. Let us never desire more than enough. He will give us that and a blessing.”
The Holy Father also has made great strides in bringing together the United States and Cuba, enemies for more than 50 years. He sees beyond ideologies and in so does not overlook the realistic differences between nations, but calls for a bigger and better mutual understanding to lift the spirits of all citizens.
He realizes that horrific harm has been caused by past events but he urges us to see beyond and offer hope so that all people can be free. He envisions a non-confrontational reconciliation that recognizes that we ultimately all need one another.
We pray that people will truly attempt to comprehend the Gospel values that the Holy Father is trying to teach, values which are drawn straight from the Beatitudes that Christ the Lord taught on the mount all those years ago in the Holy Land. His agenda is nothing other than that of Christ’s.
Pope Francis said in his homily at Mass in Cuba: “Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, and to look instead to those who are most vulnerable.”
May we remember the Holy Father’s words: “Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.”