Are we at the precipice of the actual "springtime" for the Church that so many in the 1960's thought for sure, by way of the mortal sin of presumption, would occur immediately after Vatican II? I'm not clairvoyant, but maybe I am, and I think that we might just be and this is no sin of bragging, just fact.
I know may traditionalists are very, very discomforted by Pope Francis style of being pope and being almost like a loose canon, but I think he knows what he is doing and I think he is following what the Holy Spirit is telling him to do.
John Allen of the National Chismatic Reporter, (NCR)interviewed Pope Francis sister and she states that he was always a person who did not like big crowds and would avoid them and not draw much attention to himself. She is shocked at his new personality and the fact that he seems to relish what he is doing. It is also said that Pope Francis as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires was boring and sometimes gave long boring talks. But this has not been the case thus far.
So it appears that the charism of the Office of the Chair of Peter has been handed onto this pope and in a rather unique way for the unique times in which we live.
What the Holy Father is modeling is what the Church in every diocese and parish must do also. We must engage with the world to bring them the good news. We can't do it as we did it in colonial times and force everyone to be baptized, as in South America, but we can do it through the power of love, persuasion and convincing signs and symbols which Pope Francis has done marvelously in the past 7 months.
The first thing he did, which shocked so many of you traditionalists, is that he celebrated Holy Thursday's Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper at that youth prison where he washed the feet of convicted juvenile delinquents including those who are not even Catholic, a muslim or two and several females.
Is not the Church's mission to go to the whole world with the Good News of Jesus Christ? And when Jesus washes the feet of Saint Peter does He not tell him that He will not share in His life if Jesus does not wash Him? Of course Peter will share in Jesus' crucifixion too, which the washing of his feet foretells. But that is the mission of the Church that we must all share in the cross of Jesus to be bathed clean in His Blood.
Now the Pope's most controversial style of teaching is the interview. First it was on a plane and unscripted, then there was the one with the Jesuit publication and the latest with the left leaning La Republica Newspaper. The atheist founder of this newspaper will be a changed person for this experience and those who read it, usually leftists in the Italian government and civilian life, will see the papacy and the Church in a new and more positive light and that the pope actually cares about these people to take the time to give this interview.
Shouldn't every parish and every Catholic talk to their friends, Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and non believers with love, respect and the desire to lead them to Christ, which they must choose to do so in completely freedom, not through manipulation or coercion?
So, is a new springtime about to occur in the Church in Europe and America? I am quite willing to give this pope the time he needs to do what he thinks the Holy Spirit is asking him to do. In five or ten years we can evaluate what is going on. Just remember, the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. We may have to suffer this, that and the other, like the confusion that reigned in the Church during the so-called "spirit of Vatican II" so many of us experienced in the 1970's. But even there, God's plan is to bring good out of evil, resurrection out of death. And keep in mind, we are here on earth and in the Church Militant only for a short time, this isn't our true home, so we shouldn't act like it is. Heaven is our true destination and all we need to do is to cooperate with God in bringing about what He wants to give us as a pure gift.
While the Pope is shaking things up, keep in mind the following:
He's told biblical scholars not to use methods of interpretation that call into question the Church's teachings and to be faithful to the Magisterium--that is big news and he said it within the first month of his papacy.
He's told all Catholics to be faithful to the Magisterium, the pope and bishops in union with him--this is Catholic folks and I fear that many Catholics and even some who comment here, are still Protestant congregationalists at heart when it comes to Catholicism.
He's reinvigorating the devotional life of the Church in a "hermeneutic of continuity" sort of way and insisting on Marian devotion, calling the Church, Holy Mother and inviting devotions to the other saints as well. The Holy Rosary, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, processions and a myriad of other traditional popular devotions are going to be recovered and this is good news indeed.
While he is not opposed to the EF Mass, he does not want the Extraordinary Form imposed on anyone or anyone to think that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is the normative form of the Mass. It isn't--it is for those who request it and should be under the supervision of local bishops. This bothers traditionalists who thought that the normative Mass of Vatican II would be suppressed. It won't and not even Pope Benedict advocated such silliness.
But Pope Benedict wanted the EF to influence the OF in terms of ethos and spirituality. Pope Francis is cracked open that very real possibility for the entire Latin Rite Church by allowing the Roman Missal of the Anglican Ordinariate to have in its appendix the options of "The Prayers at the Foot of the altar" to replace the Penitential Act (and thus a revised order of Mass for the Introductory Rite) as well as the EF's Offertory Prayers and the Last Gospel and rubrics for the Roman Missal more in keeping with the EF missal. This is big news folks and under Pope Francis' watch. He could have easily have excluded these things from the Anglican Ordinariate. I think it is a sign of things to come for our revised Roman Missal in the Ordinary Form which may well include these options in the Appendix!
Every formal Mass I've seen with Pope Francis has been beautiful. The Benedictine altar arrangement remains, the Introit is always chanted, as well as the Offertory and Communion Antiphons. There is always a bit of Latin somewhere in his Masses, although not in the consistent ways as Pope Benedict.
He doesn't distribute Holy Communion to the laity and he certainly isn't opposed to people standing to receive. At the Vatican, we are told when we distribute Holy Communion at papal Masses by one of the MC's not to give Holy Communion in the hand--that is a specific instruction. I know you see priests giving Holy Communion in the hand at papal Masses, but that is in contradiction from what we are told to do.
The Holy Father continues at St. Peter's to distribute Holy Communion to the deacons who kneel to receive from the Holy Father and by way of intinction.
This Pope is pastoral and most of his life as a priest and bishop has been pastoral, not academic. We are not use to this kind of pope and I don't think we've had one like this in centuries. Thus he speaks as a pastor, not an academic and knows what Catholics experience in the messiness of their lives as I do as a pastor.
He is going to develop a pastoral theology on the papal level which we have not seen and I think this too will lead to the "new springtime" that so many thought would happen in the 1970's.
So, my concluding remarks to anxious traditionalists is give this pope and the Holy Spirit time, don't carp, and be happy (blessed) not sad (cursed)!