If I were pope
If I were pope, I’d pray for an end of fear.
I’d pray for an end of the fear of the Holy Spirit. “Be not afraid,” Jesus announces. As pope, I’d try to show that the church isn’t afraid of the spirit by changing my “papal audiences” to “pastoral listening gatherings” and having one every week that was exclusively for people under 25. I would welcome them with the question of Jesus, “What are you looking for?” and I would listen and listen and try to understand. And I would change the rules of Eucharist in the catholic church recognizing that not all churches have the same beliefs but welcoming any human person to the table of communion in the hope that the sacred unity promised by the body of Christ will act as an agent of healing and love for all.
I’d pray for an end of the fear of women. I would invite women religious all over the world to come together and issue a series of letters and lessons that carry a woman’s perspective on the gospel and the kingdom of heaven among us titled, “My soul proclaims.” I would promise to give them the altar of St. Peter for the reading of these letters and lessons and promise to attend and do my best to understand. And I would ask all churches the world over to invite women religious to teach the gospel weekly from the altars of the world. And of course, I would chose my moment and with a heart asking for forgiveness, I would ask all women religious who so chose to join me at the altar as representatives of Christ and celebrate the Sacraments as priests of God in equality and solidarity.
I’d pray for an end of the fear of vulnerability. I would make my first retreat at the founding community of L’Arche in France and title it, “Let them come to me” and spend a week caring for those with the most severe mental and physical challenges. I would ask for their prayers and their support in my ministry. I would invite all believers of any kind to recognize in these human beings both the pain of creation and the goodness of the spirit which knows no bounds. I would ask all people of faith and goodness to ease the scourge of fear of difference and vulnerability and usher in an age of acceptance where there are no exceptions to the dignity of the human person. None.
I’d pray for an end of the fear of simplicity. I would ask business leaders around the world to come to teach me about how they can help the world create wealth but also distribute it without greed. I would beg them to model the gifts of generosity and humility. I would challenge them to teach the church a new way to end the grinding outrage of extreme poverty. I would pray with them as friends and I would open every session of our work together by washing their feet.
Finally, I’d pray for an end to the fear of death. I would dispose of the popemobile and ride in a convertible bus which would always have plenty of room for believers to join me. I would take my bus to tour the world and make my first five years dedicated to going only to places where war is active. I would stand my ground with victims of war, even if it meant my life was in danger. I would pray with them the words of Chief Joseph of Nez Perce: “fight no more forever.” I would put the bumper sticker on my bus, “I’m pretty sure that when Jesus said ‘love your enemies,’ he did not mean kill them.”
I would try to be a model of ending the fear of vulnerability by beginning a practice of seeking forgiveness. Every week, I would share a weakness of my own and ask the church join me in asking God to forgive me. Jesus proclaimed “the kingdom of God by the forgiveness of sins.” I would do my best to let go of all my fears and weaknesses and arrogance and model the love of all things which forgiveness makes possible. I would welcome the journey from being lost to being found.
And finally, I would try to end the fear of sexuality. I’d start by moving a king size bed into the papal apartment. After all, my wife and I don’t sleep in a single bed anymore.
If I could do all this, I would tell the everyone that it is the most glorious and joyful thing in the world to be a pope who can listen to children and learn from holy women and care for humble people and work for peace and live without fear of death and forgive in the most reckless and absolute of ways and cherish the love of my wife and my children forever.
One cautionary note: I’m not going to be pope. But there’s nothing on this list (save the ordination of women and the opening of the Eucharistic table) I can’t do myself. For me and for so many others who want and expect something dramatic from a leader like the pope, it might be a good idea to start with myself.