If I were to sum up all the little fragments that I collected to form the image of Pope Francis in my mind, all that resonates with me, it could be summed up in this one sentence: “Your life is a prayer.”
As I was leaving Sunday Mass one summer evening in the suburbs of Toronto, a mass of cars tried to exit the parking lot through a small trickle in a driveway. Each person seemed to have been looking for a shortcut and there were some angry looks and honks.
Although it was a harmless incident, it reminded me of Pope Francis criticizing hypocritical Catholics and emphasizing the importance of goodness, helping the less fortunate and forming and being guided by a clear conscience. Although prayer is an important aspect of our religion, it cannot be isolated. It has to be supported by good will and action – in helping the poor and the outcast, in demonstrating mercy and avoiding judgment of others.
I see the Pope as a leader, an interpreter, an instructor for all Catholics. This instruction must take into account the times we live in, the political situation, the dangers we face and our planet faces (such as climate change).
Pope Francis is the St. Francis of our time, asking us to slow down and examine the heart of the matter, to be able to separate what is important from what is superficial. He asks us to help the less fortunate, be among them and thus to be less self-centered. He also asks us to get off the couches and live meaningful lives.
Cardinal Collins continued this thought during one of his Lectio Divina
reflections, stressing that every day we are given the gift of twenty four hours. What do we do with this gift? And, subsequently, during evening prayers we should spend time to examine what we could have done differently and strive to improve.
In other words, what I think Pope Francis tries to convey is that our prayer is not only the time we kneel down but who we are and what we do. We must see through all the distractions of the modern world, all the superficial and the trivial, to embrace the basic foundations of the Gospel -- Love and Mercy. We must do as we pray.