Remember Saturday Night Live’s “Coffee Talk” with Mike Meyers? “No big whoop!”
I couldn’t help but think of it as I was pondering titles for this post. But the coffee talk lady really isn’t my focus today, of course. Rather, I am thinking on Pope Francis, and the fact that in 18 days, I will be leaving for Philadelphia with a tour group from our Fargo Diocese, with the mission of visiting several religious shrines, taking in the World Meeting of Families – a truly international event – and hearing from the pope himself.
Waiting to see the pope in person is a very thrilling thing for me!
When I typed this into my calendar the other day, my heart nearly stopped beating:
Saturday, Sept. 26: DAY5: 10 am., leave hotel for National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, self-guided visit. 2 p.m., leave for Festival of Families event. 3 p.m., Welcome Ceremony of Pope Francis!
It’s very important to me to actually see and hear from Pope Francis in person. After all, as a Catholic, he is my shepherd, the Vicar of Christ. Not Christ, but Christ’s representative here on earth — the physical embodiment of our Lord, the human form of all that is holy. The pope is human, but the person he represents, God, is divine, and his son, both human and divine.
So I’m tickled like crazy for this opportunity. And as a journalist who winces at the misinformation out there regarding this pope, even more so.
Take this meme that a friend shared after spotting it on her Facebook news feed. These are words attributed to Pope Francis.
In our world of easy digital sharing, we can do just about anything, attribute it to just about anyone, and not even flinch. But guess what? If it’s not verified, or relayed in context, it’s a flat out lie.
I do not doubt that Pope Francis said these words, but taken out of context, and probably out of order, they are misleading and false. When someone on this thread dared to question the accuracy of the “statement,” the person who posted it said, “Oh let me have my good thoughts for one more day…And then I suppose we’ll have to verify. I’ve always loved ‘over the top.'”
[UPDATE: The friend who first pointed out this meme shared with me after posting this link which illuminates the deception: http://www.truthorfiction.com/pope-francis-says-atheists-go-to-heaven/]
So that’s where we’ve sunk to? The point at which we would rather spread mistruths, things we WISH someone has said rather than what they actually said? That we would prefer deceiving ourselves rather than living in the light of truth?
That….is very sad.
My new friend, Julia Duin, at the Get Religion blog pontificated about a misleading headline by MSNBC relating to something Pope Francis said the other day that was spread far and wide. I challenge you to read what Julia discovered as she peeled away a few more layers of the onion of this story.
Half-truths do not accurate reporting make. (I feel like Yoda).
So we have been fed a lot of half-truths since the pope took up his staff several years ago, and it’s been a confusing mess. Which makes his presence here all the more important.
My final point is where I began in my heading: what’s the big whoop? A few years ago I was interviewing a Baptist minister, and toward the end of our conversation, he said something that I found fairly profound. “The pope is important to us, too. What he says and does affects all of us.” He wasn’t so far impressed with Pope Francis, he added. He rather liked the former two popes, who seemed to speak more clearly. I challenged him to read, in addition to mainstream media, some of the religious outlets offering a more accurate portrayal of our Holy Father.
But more to the point: it struck me that he, as a Baptist minister, found the pope, leader of the Catholic Church, relevant. I’d just assumed Protestants would dismiss the leader of the church they are protesting.
Despite all the beatings the Catholic Church has taken through the years, despite our failings as a church (and let’s not forget all of the amazing people who have emerged from Her as well, since we comprise saints and sinners both), there remains something very special about Catholicism. It is the thing that has kept me near, and gives me so much hope for our world – and for my own life.
The pope is not the anti-Christ as some content; not even close. He is tied to the popes throughout the ages, leading back to the first, Peter, who was far from perfect most days. And yet, Jesus said to him, “You are rock and upon this rock I will build my church.” He knew he had what it took, even in his humanity and imperfections, to lead His people on earth.
And here we are, some 2015 years later (we even mark our time by Christ’s life, which says something about who He was), and the successor of Peter, whom Jesus dearly loved, is about to step foot on American soil. And I will be blessed to see him with my own eyes and hear him with my own ears.
I know my Catholic friends will be interested. And I hope my non-Catholics friends might be curious as well. I want to be as attentive as possible so that I can accurately share my impressions, not based on fuzzy headlines or quotes out of context, but the real deal.
To me, this forthcoming pilgrimage is a chance of a lifetime, a big old whoop. Would you please pray for me as I prepare for this journey, that I would soak in everything to the full and do justice in the relaying, for the benefit of all?
Q4U: What did your trip of a lifetime encompass? Or, if it’s yet to happen, what do you imagine it to be like?