Sunday, April 14, 2013

Being Kind

I think I understood Benedict, I have to admit I don't understand Francis!
Benedict amazed with his brilliance in his sermons and catechesis, Francis will probably remembered for the simple homely preaching at his early morning Masses at Domus Mater, for rubbish collectors and policemen, with their simple homely message: be faithful to Christ, tell the truth, be meek, be gentle.
Benedict was that wise scribe who drew out from his store room things both old and new. Francis, maybe it is his Jesuit sense of poverty, doesn't seem to have a store room. Benedict and Francis are obviously closely related, Benedict was the kind and wise grandfather, Francis the kind old uncle, who delights in surprising you.
I was rather taken by this story:
Recently, when he left his apartment at Domus Marta and went out into the hall, the Pope found a Swiss Guard standing at attention outside his door.
He asked him, “And what are you doing here? Were you awake all night?
“Yes,” the guard answered respectfully.
“One of my colleagues gave me a break.”
“And you’re not tired?”
“It’s my duty Your Holiness, for Your safety.”
The Pope looked at him with kindness. He went back into his apartment and, after a few minutes, returned with a chair in his hand: “At least sit down and rest.”
Shocked, the Swiss Guard replied, “Forgive me, but I can’t! The rules don’t allow it.”
“The rules?”
“My captain, Your Holiness.”
“Oh, is that so? Well, I’m the Pope and I am asking you to sit down.”
So, between the rules and the Pope, the Swiss Guard, complete with his halberd, chose the chair. And then the Pope brought him some bread and jam for a snack, saying, “Buon appetito, brother.”
Quite what Il Capitano and his fellow guardsmen made of this I wonder.
What I find rather exciting is Benedict taught us to connect our worship, theology and belief, Francis seem to teach us to connect simple kindness to belief.
Christians should be known for their kindness. which I think he said in one of his sermons to the binmen, policemen and cleaners. Perhaps that is one of the qualities above all else that we need to relearn.

Post Script
A hearwarming picture from Rorate:


gemoftheocean said...

Nice story. I expect that's why the Lord calls different kinds of men to be priests. How boring if they were all alike!

kfca said...

There is a time and a place for kindnesses of this kind. I pity the poor Guard for the discomfort, the turmoil, he must have felt. There are offices in the Church on earth, as in Heaven. Perhaps given time, His Holiness, Pope Francis, will come to understand that with greater clarity, so that we are not tempted to abandon our duties of state, descend into any kind of lawlessness and allow anarchy to reign. May the Queen of Heaven fortify the Holy Father with the graces necessary to heighten his prudential judgement to the utmost.

Singalong said...

kfca I expect the Guard could cope with it, and if he found it difficult, perhaps he and you may come to understand genuine kindness and consideration with greater clarity yourselves.

nickbris said...

The same story has been going around about Buckingham Palace for years

George said...

When first the Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood. Next time however he came near the King of Beasts he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by. The third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family were, and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony.

pearl said...

I'm having trouble connecting with this incumbent.

Pastor in Valle said...

A lovely picture. I have heard elsewhere that the good Monsignor and the Holy Father have warmed to each other considerably, no doubt recognizing each other's zeal for the Kingdom expressed in different, but complementary, ways.

Delia said...

I think I may have heard this story before too, but whether or not it is true it chimes with other things Pope Francis is said to have done.

Clearly the Holy Father has some lovely personal qualities, but I think we need a bit more from a pope. He seems to act on instinct rather than thinking things through. But this can cause confusion. Benedict never did that. Everything he did was well considered with a clear aim in view, to deepen our understanding of some mystery of the faith. Pope Francis also needs to be careful that his actions are not used as a stick with which to beat his predecessor - or to make things difficult for his successor, for that matter. Popes don't do that, and it is very bad for the Church.

I also think he needs to move out of his comfort zone. Orbi as well as urbi, please, and let's see the lights on in the apostolic palace so that we know our Holy Father is there for us. And how about asking a poor cobbler back home in Buenos Aires to make a nice pair of red shoes?!

George said...

One more thing... from the perspective of a military officer, I see this interchange between the Holy Father and the Swissguardsman as potentially the worst form of insincere posturing and tokenism. Those in authority over others should know the difference between truly caring for well-being versus what appears to me to be posturing and tokenism.

What are the additional security burdens put on the Swiss Guard due to the the Holy Father's decision to live within the Domo Santa Marta rather than the Papal Apartment? Presumably the Papal Apartment were structured throughout the years to provide more efficient security for the Holy Father than the Domo Santa Marta. How much more burden are these young men enduring in terms of lack of proper facilities, increased patrolling or security check point requirements, and the concomitant decrease in personal or family time off? How many other decisions has the Holy Father made, in terms of his interaction with the public, have resulted in the Swiss Guards' jobs not only being more difficult, but more dangerous.

parepidemos said...

George, Please. To accuse Pope Francis of possibly engaging in insincerity and tokenism is not only judgemental but uncharitable.

Pearl, I am truly sorry that you are not able, as yet, to connect with Pope Francis. After an initial surprise, I find myself warming to him very quickly. I have been blessed with a rather comfortable lifestyle and my concern for the needy had tended to be expressed financially and nothing more. As Benedict challenged me to think, so Francis is challenging me to put my faith into action, particularly regarding those on the margins of society (much as Christ challenged the people of His time).

If we believe that the cardinals were open to the Holy Spirit (and I do) then although Francis may not be what we are used to in a Bishop of Rome (the title he seems to prefer) but he is what we need at this moment in time.

mark said...

It looks as though a few of the posters here have not yet learned the lesson of kindness, of 'Being Kind'. Let us pray for them.

Jacobi said...

Pope Francis would have been even kinder to the guard if he had told him to "carry on".

You are doing a disservice to a guard, and possibly to yourself and others, if you induce him to relax, disregard his duties, and as a result, incurr danger or cause him to end up on a charge!

Servus parvulorum said...

The new Holy Father is obviously a kind and good man: but he still has a lot to learn about being Pope.

The whole point of assuming a new name upon election to the Papacy is that a new Pope commits himself to submerging his own personality and his own personal preferences in his new role. What continues to worry me, Father, is that by deliberately rejecting the names of any of his predecessors Pope Francis seems to have implied that there is none of them whom he wishes to emulate. Similarly, by rejecting the use of the rooms and vestments which they have traditionally used, he is effectively saying, "Look at me, not at my uniform. See how humble I am!”

The fact the Holy Father is accustomed to the life-style of a religious does not mean that he should condemn either his predecessors or his successors to be considered lacking in humility if they did not - or do not - do so. His personal preference for austerity should be his own affair, and he should take care to keep any privations he may wish to impose upon himself strictly private. But in public he should put up with honours he may find distasteful, because they are accorded not him as an individual but to the Office he holds. That, surely, is the mark of true humility, which never draws attention to itself.

The Holy Father's new role is very different from his former one as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Like St Peter and so many other Roman Pontiffs, he has been lead in his old age where he would rather not go, and he must now learn to submit to being girded by others, whether he happens to like the trappings or not. And just as St Peter had to let Our Lord His feet, so a Pope must have the humility to let others get on with their jobs and serve him.

I work in a very violent part of the developing world, and there is an armed guard on duty all night to ensure the safety of the people who are sleeping in the building where I live. I, too, was concerned about this until the security company pointed out that if the guard were to be allowed to sit down, he would find it much harder to stay awake. This would therefore be a danger both to himself and to those whom is meant to be protecting.

The same surely applies in the case of the Swiss Guard. Falling asleep on sentry duty is a very serious military offence, sometimes even punishable by death in time of war. The Swiss Guard must be allowed do their job humanely but effectively.

Let us pray that as Pope Francis grows into his new role he will be endowed with prudence and wisdom as well as with compassion and humility.

La gallina said...

Oh no, not another broken rule. I am Catholic (after many years of proudly being an atheist rule-breaking rebel) because (among many other things) of its rules and orderliness. Now, one month into his papacy, our Holy Father is smashing up the rules left and right. This is REALLY, REALLY depressing.

rozann said...

It's a blessing that we don't have to do too much searching to find a whole list of people that are "holier than the Pope"!

George said...

I should have been more careful about my choice of words. This incident involving the Swissguardsman outside the Pope's door does bother me greatly, however.

If I assume sincerity on the Holy Father's part (which, as some commenters have pointed out, is required by the virtue of Charity) then I'm left seeing a man who has apparently very little understanding about things like duty, standards, and discipline. Things that one would expect a simple Catholic father of a home would understand.

Would the Holy Father want to open the door a few weeks from now and see the Swiss Guard sitting around a card table playing brag? And then a few weeks later walk out to find no one there, and then after a minute or two find his guard walking back buttoning his trousers saying, "sorry Frannie I had to visit the loo."

[It doesn't take very long for soldiers to come to realize that tough leaders are preferable to easy ones. The immediate gratification of working for an easygoing boss soon wanes.]

Unknown said...


"the worst form of insincere posturing and tokenism"
"Judge not let thou thyself be judged" I often think it is even worse to judge people by what we THINK are their motives than it is to judge them by their actions. Neither you or I have any idea of Pope Francis' real motives for doing this so why not take it at face value that he meant to be kind? Pope St Pius V was in the habit of kneeling and kissing the feet of any beggar he saw in the street and he was not accused of "insincere posturing and tokenism" and we know that Pope Francis is an admirer of this great Saint, I would assume he wishes to emulate him. Have some charity and remember that he IS the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ and we lesser mortals do not have the right to critise his actions or his motives. Pray for him! Pray like blazes! Why do we all think we would make a much better Pope than him? This is probably the hardest job on earth, it scares me just thinking about it. Pray! Don't criticise! PRAY!! Chloe

GOR said...

Pope Francis: "Don't tell anyone but I kind of fancied those red shoes..."

Ab. Marini: "'Nuff said!"

CSR said...


Not to pile on, because I hear your point, but isn't there something to be said for the difference in motivation between serving the Pope (love for the Church), and serving your boss or commanding officer (money/duty/fear). I doubt very much that a Swiss Guard is looking for an excuse to slack off. I bet the Pope finds him the same way every morning no matter what he does.

Pope Francis clearly sees small acts of kindness and "condecension" as requirements of Catholic leadership. Personally, I find the whole episode a little silly (a grown man bringing another bread and jam)-- but I think the Pope may be fine with the idea that Christians are better off being silly than getting too comfortable with the ways and order or the world. That sounds Fransican to me.

NBW said...

The Pope's kindness is beautiful.

The Rad Trad said...

This story about Pope Francis stepping out of character, if you will, reminds me of John Paul II's skiing trips. He and a few friends would put on civilian clothing, drive out of Vatican City with the Swiss Guard hardly noticing who was in the backseat, and returning at the conclusion of the weekend. Only once was the Pope recognized, and by a child at that!

I hardly see this as a dramatic gesture, more like the Pope "lightening up" after a long day. St. Pius X used to smoke cigars in the sacristy before Mass. Francis should at least get to pull out a chair.

Nice to see him getting along with Msgr Marini as well.

Ma Tucker said...

Wouldn't be inclined to believe it. It is just too silly.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

A Franciscan, a former journalist, who posted this story emphasised that he hadn't been able to establish if this really happened, though he thought the story worth sharing.

When I was growing up in Dublin, when Ireland was still a Catholic country - it has largely ceased to be Christian now - any criticisms I heard about priests were for a perceived lack of kindness. Over the years as a priest I have also heard many positive comments about acts of kindness by individual priests. Kindness is a quality of Jesus himself.

Servus parvulorum makes a number of important points. It is important to respect the work that people do and what it means to them. I've seen only one or two episodes of Downton Abbey but in one the young heir - if that's what he was - doesn't want the services of his manservant in preparing to dress for dinner or some such formal occasion. The manservant is quite distressed and says 'This is what I do'. He didn't see himself as an inferior but as a person carrying out a service in which he took pride and for which he was paid.

However, this story about Pope Francis may be just an urban myth, a variation on a similar story about Buckingham Palace that a number have mentioned here. Who witnessed it and who first told it?

Woody said...

How kind is he being when he calls some of us, who would be expected to be his most diligent followers, fools? See reports of the latest domus homily. We shall see who is the greater fool.

gemoftheocean said...

Fr. Coyle: Amen re: the simple acts of kindness. I know one woman who many years ago had been on the outs with the church, not over anything specific...she was at a low point in life, and felt no one cared, and no one was listening. She finally did screw up courage to stop by and see the local parish priest. The first thing he asked her was "have you eaten? can I get you something?" Well, she hadn't eaten and was very hungry. I can still see the tears in her eyes when she related the story to me years later. She said "He told me to sit down, and with his own hands he made me a sandwich. To think a busy man like that would take the time to personally do that for me, and then listen." It was the start of her way back to the church. [1950s or 60s]

parepidemos said...

Fr Sean, Like you I doubt the veracity of this story - if for no other reason than Francis refers to himself as "Pope", a term he seems to avoid, choosing instead "Bishop of Rome".

What saddens me is this: there have been various, initially veiled, criticisms of the present Bishop of Rome almost from the start. Now, these criticisms are becoming more pointed - from people who profess to be faithful Catholics - and almost anything is being used as an excuse, from carrying the staff of Paul VI to this (likely apocryphal) act of kindness.

OK, we miss Benedict, but I feel that some want a pope who fits in with preconceived ideas rather than the one whom (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit) the cardinals have chosen.

Katalina said...

I think what a lot of people are pointing out on these blog sites is this- these actions by Pope Francis while they may be well intention and symbolic are also causing much confusion and division. We are not being "holier than Thou" or "judging the Pope" what we are trying to do is simply think critically as we suppose to do not just show a lot of emotional sentimentality that keeps trying to ignore the Pope Emeritus.