“You actually follow the Pope?!” people have asked me, sure that this is just as silly as believing in fairies. “He’s just a man like you and me! What are you brainwashed?”
For many years, I wondered the same thing about Catholics. Before I entered the Church I questioned why so many people were devoted to a simple, strange old fellow in a white dress. After all, he’s just a man, right?
But today the fact that the Pope is “just a man” no longer keeps me away from the Church. In fact now it’s just the opposite; it’s one more reason I embrace her.
Now when I say ‘man’, I’m not talking about mere masculinity. I’m talking about the true humanity that we all share. The salty, tragic, wonderful mishmash of traits that makes us human; the mix of benevolence and evil and generosity and shame that fills us all.
A glance at the papacy down through the centuries reveals this spectrum. For example, we’ve had our fair share of salty popes. Pope John XII murdered scores of people and was caught in bed with another man’s wife. Pope Urban VI tortured dozens, if not hundreds, of conspirators. And Pope Stephen VI exhumed the dead body of his predecessor before throwing it in a river. The papacy, like mankind, has its warts.
But on the flipside, we’ve had many honorable popes. Think of men like Gregory the Great, Leo XIII, and Pope John Paul II (and, may I add, Pope Benedict XVI). Though they weren’t perfect by any measure, these men captained the Church well and brought light to the entire world. Like the repentant Peter, they each submitted their wills (and faults) to God. So the papacy, like mankind, also has its beauty.
The pope has always been “just a man”. He’s like us in all ways including sin. He falls, he triumphs, he suffers, he sacrifices, he makes mistakes yet seeks redemption. He understands all of our difficulties for they are his own and has moments of glory that seem far beyond this world.
And that all, of course, makes sense: the only way God could save a world of humans was to become one himself. Likewise, the only way a pope can lead a Church of humans is be one of the crowd.
So I’d agree with the skeptic who says the Pope is “just a man” like the rest of us. And for that very reason–for that surprising, sometimes disturbing fact–I’m glad.
That's good stuff... and from "a man" who's not yet 30.
Read more about him and his conversion to Catholicism here. Here's a teaser excerpt:
Back at the Wesley Foundation--as in many Evangelical circles—there was a resurgence in classical spirituality. Hearing recommendations of Chesterton, Merton, Mother Teresa, andAugustine became regular. And ancient spiritual practices like 'lectio divina' and 'Lenten fasting'became fresh streams for thirsty souls.
As I engaged these authors and practices, though, I couldn't avoid a nagging theme: the Catholic tradition lurking behind so many of these gems. I thought, 'If so many of these spiritual giants were Catholic, and if so many of these practices stem from the Catholic tradition, then there must be some truth to the Catholic faith'. How could Chesterton and Augustine be so right about everything except their religion? Were the Catholic vows shared by Teresa and Merton a foundation or a hindrance to their profound spirituality? And there was another theme that echoed again and again:the Eucharist. What to make of this "Eucharist" that so many of these masters counted as gold? These questions—along with a proposal to my Catholic girlfriend--convinced me to seriously explore the Catholic faith.
There's much more and it's fascinating. See if you'll agree.