Monday, March 13, 2023

Gratitude For Pope Francis’s Ten Years of Service

Dear Pope Francis,

Thank you for ten years of fidelity to the office to which God has called you—to be Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, Servant of the Servants of God, and a shepherd and father to us all.

You have reminded us every day of the loving presence of Jesus in our lives, and challenged us to share the joy of the Gospel with the whole world, to live with responsibility and gratitude for the beauty and value of all of God’s creation, and to cherish and support the irreplaceable, lifelong mutual love of husbands and wives as the essential foundation of family life. You have encouraged young people and—by word and example—taught us how to embrace growing old, and the mysterious value of the sufferings that we are called to endure. You have emphasized the special human gift of dialogue and mutual enrichment in the relationship of grandparents and grandchildren, of the elderly with the younger generations. This interaction is an important part of God’s providence: in this way life and history are informed by the union of wisdom and innocence, by experience of the past and hope for the future. 

You have always emphasized the special love of Jesus for the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized. Attention to their material needs (including their very real need for justice, mercy, and equity) is not motivated by utopian schemes but by fidelity to Jesus who calls us to recognize him and serve him concretely in the poor: “I was hungry and you gave me food… I was sick and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me… I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” You have exhorted us to work in the ways we can to build a more just, loving, fraternal society—to foster the “revolution of tenderness” that Jesus is working even in the midst of this temporal world, as the glowing light of his glory on the horizon of earthly life that has already begun to illuminate everything, as the foretaste of eternal life that sustains us on our historical journey with the promise of fulfillment. It is worthwhile, therefore, to glorify God through works of mercy, and even to work for the “civilization of love” (Saint Paul VI), the social vitality of Christ’s saving love that “already”—even NOW—embraces the whole human person and every aspect of human life. 

We are called to adore, worship, and live in gratitude and joy as children of God our Father, and to serve Jesus our brother in one another and especially in the poor, the abandoned, the lonely—because it is particularly through them that Jesus cries out to us and yearns for our love. God loves everyone, which means that his Catholic Christian disciples cannot rest in any form of self-satisfaction, but must always seek the face of Christ who has united himself to the fulfillment—the destiny—of every person.

In these ten years this has been the wisdom—the heart and soul—of your Petrine ministry. What you have proposed to us is often difficult, but it is the way of the Gospel, the truth we need to hear, the guidance and correction of a merciful father who is called to help us mature in Christ. It requires us to face our own weakness and incoherence, which humbles us. But it is good for us to be humble. Your Papacy remains an ongoing work of Christian love and service for which I am truly grateful.

Thank you, Pope Francis, for being a “father” to me in Christ in this past decade. You have consoled me, instructed me, provoked me to look more deeply at things I thought I already knew, helped me to be patient while living in the midst of an often-confusing and sometimes-terrifying society—to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow Jesus, to resist temptations to resentment, wounded vanity, grudges, gossip, or forgetting Christ’s lordship over history and trusting instead worldly ideologies that promise easy security (and revenge) if I am willing to sell my soul

I am so grateful for your paternal solicitude by word and example that has been a light for me during a decade filled with pain in my own life, unstable health, much sorrow and grief, so many changes in the passage of time, and—of course—many surprising and profound joys too. (The older I get, the more I find that sorrow and joy often come together in circumstances and events, because they are so full of the Mystery to whom they point, of whom they speak—the fulfillment that has already begun, and that hastens us onward.)

Dear Pope Francis, in your ministry you have accompanied me and encouraged me in so many ways, through so many words and gestures. Meanwhile, as you continue to bear the enormous sufferings that weigh upon individuals and peoples in the Church and in the world, I will continue to pray for you.

Your devoted son—and brother—in Christ and his Church,

~John Janaro