There is something about Francis that’s reawakened my faith. And it’s not because he opened the floodgates to allow sin in the eyes of the church. He still argues against things I passionately support, but I find myself — like many other lapsed Catholics — enthralled.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting one of the Pope’s newly appointed cardinals. His name is Cardinal Gerald LaCroix. The 57-year-old presides at the Basilica Cathedral of Notre Dame in Quebec City.
One of my first questions: What is it about Pope Francis?
“Every person is a mystery you know. … But what’s evident is this man is living with such freedom, such inner freedom. He’s himself. He’s in tune with the Lord,” LaCroix told me.
“Those close to him say he’s up close to 4 in the morning to prepare his daily Mass, which is at 7 in the morning on the weekdays. So that’s almost three hours of prayer, preparation and silence before the Lord and the word of God. Wow, that really fine-tunes you to start off a day.”
Perhaps that’s how the Pope stays humble. Why he defies tradition and washes the feet of the disabled, women and those of other faiths. Why he ordered showers to be built for the poor in St. Peter’s Square.
All of this is appealing, but it’s more than that. In my mind, it’s his tone. When Pope Francis said, “If a person is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” The comment took me aback.
Homosexuality has long been a taboo subject for the Vatican, yet Pope Francis uttered those welcoming words.
LaCroix likened the Pope’s approach to Jesus. “Jesus didn’t judge. Jesus did not come as a judge. He came as someone who preached and talked about the love of God.”
But isn’t homosexuality a sin in the eyes of the church?
“There is room for everyone. The door is open,” Cardinal Lacroix insisted. “Of course you know that the Catholic Church will never promote same sex marriage, but do we respect homosexual persons? Do we welcome them? Do we accompany them? Of course. But to respect the Church and its teaching, which is based on a long tradition and also the word of God, we will not go so far as to bless. But that doesn’t mean we reject.”
The Cardinal’s last words to me: “I’m trying to do my best on (the) local level — to have an open ear to what the church and world are experiencing. To see how we can today respond to those needs. I want people to see me, and the church, as an open heart to grow together. Not a church that’s imposing — we have nothing to impose — we have someone to propose: the Lord Jesus and his Gospel.”
I can’t wait to go church next Sunday.