Music and the Gospel: “Cover the Earth,” Kari Jobe, ft. Cody Carnes

This week’s SPIRIT explores the message and values of Pope Francis. He believes in creating a compassionate and merciful world, one that embraces social justice initiatives regarding climate change and poverty. He is also listening to the voices of young people as they share their concerns for their communities and the world at large. The song “Cover The Earth” is about embracing a similar message, breaking down walls, and letting the Spirit rise up and move us toward into a more inclusive and caring world.

Key Lyrics: Let the Spirit rise up, let it break through the walls / And beat down the doors, and crash through the windows / And cover the earth, the earth, the earth, the earth / Let the Spirit rise up, let it break through the walls / And beat down the doors, and crash through the windows / And cover the earth, the earth, the earth, the earth

Questions: What values does Pope Francis represent? How are his values like yours? Where do you see Jesus’ values at work in our world? How do you imagine the kingdom of God? What would you like to take part in building to make our world better?

We Need Saints: Pope Francis at World Youth Day

Pope Francis Poster“We need saints without cassocks, without veils – we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints – saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. we need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.”
– Pope Francis, World Youth Day 2013

A Church For the Poor

The BBC’s David Willey recently reported on Pope Francis’ first major speech on the global financial crisis, saying he “has called on world leaders to end the ‘cult of money’ and to do more for the poor.” He urged for immediate ethical financial reform by making the important distinction that “Money has to serve, not to rule.” He is not just pointing fingers, though, but taking his own steps toward reform in the Vatican. For the first time, the Vatican’s own bank said they would publish its annual report to increase transparency. Willey writes of one of the world’s most secretive banks, “The Institute for Works of Religion, which has been at the centre of various financial scandals in recent years, is to hire an external accountancy firm to ensure it meets international standards against money laundering.” And when Pope Francis speaks of the poor, he is not only talking about countries far away that are struggling. He reminds us that people in countries rich and poor are suffering.

Photo from Flickr user  Gerard Van der Leun

Photo from Flickr user Gerard Van der Leun

Pope Francis referenced the golden calf idol from the Bible and added, “People struggle to live, and frequently in an undignified way, under dictatorship of an economy which lacks any real human goal.” His words are calling on some important statements coming out of the Vatican over the years on economic violence. Following his election as Pope, he said, “I would like a Church that is poor and is for the poor.”

Since moving to New York City, I have found myself confronted with the golden calf and cult of money every day. Some of the richest people in the world live in New York City while others sit on benches and in subways homeless and hungry. I want my Church to work with me to address this, and Pope Francis is. A few months after moving to New York City, a friend who was in town for business invited my spouse and me to come over to his brother-in-laws place where he was staying for the weekend. We walked around the apartment overlooking Central Park with our mouths open wide, stunned. Our friend said it was worth $20 million, and the couple who owns it lives in Chicago. This residence is just a place to stay when they are in town. We returned home to our little apartment, where we felt much more comfortable, but still think of people living in extreme poverty every day. My eyes were open even more to the extremes of money.

In the United States and all around the world, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. In the May 19th New York Times, Charles V. Bagli reported on an 84 story tower being built on 432 Park Avenue. Upon completion, it will be the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere. A golden calf. The top penthouse apartment is already under contract for $95 million, and apartments on lower floors are going for almost that much. He writes, “While their identities are not known, it is likely that many are the rootless superrich: Russian metals barons, Latin American tycoons, Arab sheiks and Asian billionaires.” In the same May 19th New York Times, Timothy Noah wrote, “Since 1979, the one-percenters have doubled their share of the nation’s collective income from about 10 percent to about 20 percent.” Between 2009-2011, their average income rose by 11 percent. It is easy to blame the richest of the rich four our economic problems and wait for them to become more generous. But that is not the whole story. Noah argues another part of the problem in the United States is the growing gap between people who have a college or graduate degree and those who stopped school after high school. Unions used to protect the skilled working class by demanding fair wages and humane hours and conditions. It kept the gap more in check. “Only about 7 percent of the private sector labor force is covered by union contracts. Six decades ago it was nearly 40 percent…the middle classes aren’t getting pay increases commensurate with the wealth they create for their bosses. The bosses aren’t going to fix the problem.” But unions may be able to.

Pope Francis is right.

The gap between the rich and the poor keeps growing in the United States and all over the world. Money has become a cult. Wealth is a golden calf. One of the seven themes in Catholic Social Teaching is The Dignity of Work and the Rights of the Workers. This tenant came out of the Industrial Revolution, when workers were not being treated with dignity. It says that the economy must serve the people, not the other way around. It also promotes the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to organize in unions. Pope Francis appears ready to lift up our social teaching and hold his Church to a higher economic standard where we prioritize people over profit.

Pope Francis

On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a cardinal from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was voted the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the first Jesuit, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first from the Americas to be named pope. These are all big firsts, and matched with the fact that Pope Benedict XVI decided to resign (the first pope to do so since 1415), it is an interesting season for the Vatican.

This book provides six faith-sharing sessions on Franciscan spirituality. Each session begins and ends with simple prayers from scripture or from St. Francis' writings. Stories of Francis' life and scripture passages he loved and lived by form the core of each session. Reflection questions help us readers and group users apply the theme of the session to our own lives.

This book provides six faith-sharing sessions on Franciscan spirituality. Each session begins and ends with simple prayers from scripture or from St. Francis’ writings. Stories of Francis’ life and scripture passages he loved and lived by form the core of each session. Reflection questions help us readers and group users apply the theme of the session to our own lives.

In his first month as pope, Francis has won widespread acclaim thus far by gestures such as stopping to pay his own hotel bill, dressing down, choosing to live in the less fancy Vatican guest house and riding the elevator with the cardinals instead of by himself. Already this is sending a message of a less formal interpretation of his papal role, mirrored by his mode of speech in addresses to the public and during worship. He is not afraid to break convention in the name of simplicity. “This choice indicates about all a style for the church: simplicity, poverty, rigor,” said the Rev. Antonio Spadaro. On Holy Thursday, Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve inmates at a juvenile prison in Rome. Two of the inmates were Muslim women. This, again breaking convention since the pope’s ceremonial foot washing traditionally has only included men since in the biblical story Jesus washed the feet of twelve male apostles. Then, on Easter Sunday, Pope Francis’ address showed deep concern for the poor and marginalized among us, quite in line with his chosen name.

Bergoglio chose the name Francis upon his papal appointment, many are saying after Francis of Assisi. Francis of Assisi was raised in a rich family, went to war, was imprisoned, and became very ill. Upon returning to Assisi, Francis eventually denounced his wealth and worldliness to work to imitate Jesus in his own life. Francis of Assisi was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, but lived among beggars in Rome and worked to end the Crusades. He is the patron saint of animals and the environment and is associated with peace, poverty and simplicity. An interesting namesake choice for Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis. One month after his appointment, it is clear that there are eyes on the Vatican, wondering where Pope Francis will lead the Church.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

If you had to change your name, who would you want to be named after?

What would taking on that name mean for you as a reminder to how you want to live?

If you were to pick on line from The Prayer of St. Francis as your mantra for the week, which would it be? Why?