The Art of Pope Baiting

This week – and throughout the month of October – we celebrate Respect Life Month. We showcase how, as a diocesan family, we joyfully embrace and deeply respect each life from conception until natural death.

By: Sr. Clare Hunter, F.S.E.

Pope Francis blesses a baby from the popemobile in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Alex Brandon, pool) See POPE-FAMILY-MASS Sept. 27, 2015.

Pope Francis blesses a baby from the popemobile in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Alex Brandon, pool) See POPE-FAMILY-MASS Sept. 27, 2015.

Pope baiting: that which grabs the attention of a pope in order to elicit contact. I just made up that definition, but get no credit for the phrase. I heard it used last week when someone unabashedly told me about holding a baby as Pope Francis drove by the crowds in hopes that he would stop for the baby, and my friend might share in the precious moment with Our Holy Father. Unfortunately, for my friend, the Pope did not bite, at least with that baby. But here is the reality; the world does know how to “bait” the Pope and stop him in his tracks. We know what he loves.

Pope Francis has exposed his heart to us, showing through his actions, his body language, how he loves. He certainly loves all of God’s creation, but we receive quite the education about what it means to love human life. By now we know, it will be the most vulnerable, marginalized and unwanted that Pope Francis longs to embrace. As the world was glued to media outlets to hear what Pope Francis would say to the United States; which political side he would take, how he would reprimand or affirm, what moral laws he would command or eliminate, he preached, like Saint Francis, without having to say a word.

Pope Francis greets a woman in a wheelchair during the presentation of offertory gifts during the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-FAMILY-MASS Sept. 27, 2015.

Pope Francis greets a woman in a wheelchair during the presentation of offertory gifts during the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-FAMILY-MASS Sept. 27, 2015.

His presence alone at the World Meeting of Families told us what he believes about the value of family life, the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and the gift of human sexuality. And, it was in his immediate response and draw to babies, children, the disabled, the elderly, and the imprisoned that Pope Francis gave us clear teachings on the sacredness of human life, acting out for us the teachings of the Church found in the Catechism, documents like Humanae Vitae, Dignitas Personae and Donum Vitae. Human beings are sacred, to be held and kissed, not property to be eliminated and discarded.

As a nation, we do need to be taught to desire babies, to embrace and love them. Like Pope Francis, we are supposed to touch the disabled; seek out and revere the elderly and most radically to believe in rehabilitation and to forgive and love the guilty and imprisoned. His persistence in halting the Secret Service and Swiss Guards from keeping him from the crowds in order to embrace the disabled should inspire us to end the tragedy of 90 percent of Down syndrome pregnancies being aborted, or any baby with a terminal disease or disability from being aborted. We must not allow for Planned Parenthood, or any facility to sell aborted baby parts for experimentation. Laws allowing for assisted suicide and euthanasia must be denied. The death penalty should cease. Violence and abuse must not be tolerated. “Love one another as I have loved you!” This is what Pope Francis said when he came to the United States.

Pope Francis blesses a prisoner as he visits the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-PRISON Sept. 27, 2015.

Pope Francis blesses a prisoner as he visits the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-PRISON Sept. 27, 2015.

I would say that the Pope baited the United States. Clearly, the tremendous response and desire to see and to know Pope Francis is a sign that we desire the truth, that we long for love and that we still have faith. Now it is time to put the lesson into practice.

October is Respect Life Month. What a perfect opportunity to show our faith and love through actions. Consider ways in which you can reach out to those most vulnerable and marginalized. How is God calling you to help and show your support?

For more information on volunteer opportunities in the Diocese of Arlington contact Gabriel Project Arlington, Catholic Charities of the Arlington Diocese, National Catholic Partnership on Disability and 40 Days for Life.

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