I got a calling from God last month while I was at Home Depot. A Morgan Freeman-like voice spoke from within me, announcing “Kevin, repair my church. It is falling apart.” I thought “Alright” and started loading up my cart with nails, wooden boards, and of course, the fix-all for any situation, WD-40 and duct tape. I realized I didn’t have enough money to buy it all, so I sold my truck, right there in the parking lot, to a stranger for $1,000. I walked with my newly acquired tools to my hometown parish and started looking around for cracks, holes, and other damages. When Father Andy refused to accept my tools and help, I got pissed off and threw a hissy fit. I realized that my dad would punish me for the way I acted once he found out, so I hid out in a back alley-way in Flint for about a month or so. I recently decided to come home, covered in dirt and hungry enough to eat an entire party-sized sub from Subway, only to be beaten by my father and locked up in our downstairs closet.
No, this did not really happen to me.
This is a modern-day version of a chapter in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He once heard a call from God to “repair my house, which as you can see is falling into ruin” (1). Taking that literally, he sold his horse to buy materials to help repair one of the local churches. When the priest of that church “refused to receive the gold thus gotten, Francis flung it from him disdainfully” (1). Francis anticipated the harsh punishment his father would give him for his actions, so he hid out in a cave for a month. When he emerged, he was dragged home by his father, beaten, and locked in a closet.
As St. Francis went on with his life, he started giving more and more of himself to helping those who were less fortunate. In fact, his service to the poor is what he is known for by many of us today. As he continued helping the needy, he began to realize that God was not literally calling him to repair His church with hammers and nails; He wanted Francis to “repair” the Church through service and love.
For those of you who don’t know, Saginaw Valley State University does not have its own church on campus. We utilize a beautiful building when we celebrate mass on Sundays and we have a great time celebrating a low mass in a classroom on Wednesday nights, but we don’t have a chapel on or near campus to call “home”. Our assistant chaplain, Father Eddie, told our group the story of St. Francis of Assisi “building up the church”, alluding to the fact that that was what we were doing at SVSU. Even though we don’t have an actual, physical chapel, we are building up the Church through the bonds our members share and the services we provide on and off campus.
You can imagine my excitement to hear the name chosen by the most recently elected Pope, Francis. The humble individual waved to the people in St. Peter’s Square and, before the traditional blessing of the crowd, asked the crowd to first bless him. People have since been frantically searching for information on the former Cardinal from Argentina and have discovered the man’s history of humility and his passion for serving others.
In the anticipation leading up to the election , many people wondered if a newly elected Pope would bring about “change” in the Catholic Church (such as allowing priests to be married, allowing women to be ordained priests, and changing their stance on gay marriage). I believe Pope Francis will bring about change, but not in the way that many people perceive “change”. I’m confident that Pope Francis will not change policies on women being ordained, priests getting married, or favoring gay marriage just to appeal to modern-day society. He will continue to defend the truth embedded within the Catholic Church and work with the mindset that “the Church doesn’t need to ‘get with the times’, the times need to get with the Church.”
The change that I foresee is a change in the views people have towards the Catholic Church. Though 1.2 billion people worldwide identify themselves as Catholic (2), the Catholic Church always seems to be under attack from others over controversial issues. With the humble and loving Pope Francis as our new Holy Father, I believe there is more potential that people’s attitudes towards the church will change. I foresee that members and non-members of the Catholic Church alike will understand what it truly means to identify oneself as Catholic, what it truly means to be Christ’s hands and feet on this planet. I believe Pope Francis will do his best to set the example for the life we are all called to live. In doing so, he will help “rebuild the church”, just as St. Francis did, without changing certain policies that society seems so desperate to desire to change. Meanwhile, Catholics worldwide must also do their part in rebuilding the Church (even those without an actual chapel across the street from them, like those at SVSU) through more passionate acts of prayer, love, and service to all.