GodGrrl on the Radio: Pope Francis, “The Joy of Love,” and WGN-Radio Chicago

I had SUCH fun talking to Wendy Snyder and Bill Leff on Chicago’s WGN radio yesterday about Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia. Have a listen below.

Religion journalist Cathleen Falsani: People love ‘Papa Frank’!

Papa Frank’s “apostolic exhortation” Amoris Laetitia is at times beautiful and challenging and worth a read (all 250+ pages of it). For those of you less inclined, here are a few of my favorite bits from the his “Joy of Love”:

++ “By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God.”

++”We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations…We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.”

++”At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families.
This excessive idealization, especially when we have failed to inspire trust in God’s grace, has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive, but quite the opposite.”

++”We have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness.”

++”Conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel…It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”

++”A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives.This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, ‘sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families.”

++At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity…We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance…That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel. It is true, for example, that mercy does not exclude justice and truth, but first and foremost we have to say that mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth.”

++”Keep an open mind.. Don’t get bogged down in your own limited ideas and opinions, but be prepared to change or expand them. The combination of two different ways of thinking can lead to a synthesis that enriches both.”

And in perhaps my favorite passage, which reminds me of a few people I’m blessed to know, particularly this guy:

++ “The most intense joys in life arise when we are able to elicit joy in others, as a foretaste of heaven. We can think of the lovely scene in the film Babette’s Feast, when the generous cook receives a grateful hug and praise: “Ah, how you will delight the angels!” It is a joy and a great consolation to bring delight to others, to see them enjoying themselves. This joy, the fruit of fraternal love, is not that of the vain and self-centered, but of lovers who delight in the good of those whom they love, who give
freely to them and thus bear good fruit.”

Chasing Francis: God Girl on the U.S. Papal Visit 2015

I spent the week of Pope Francis’ first apostolic visit (and first visit ever) to the United States following him around Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia for Sojourners. Best people watching week of all time.

Below are links to all of those stories, from newest to oldest. I also shot a lot of photos, which you can find interspersed above below as well.


Why We (Still) Love Pope Francis
Oct. 7, 2015, Sojourners

So, why do we love Pope Francis? What does it mean and why does it matter?

Last year in Rome, while reflecting on Francis’ nearly universal popularity inside and out of the church, one member of the Curia in Rome put it this way:

  • People came to St. Peter’s Square to see Pope John Paul II.
  • People came to St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Benedict XVI.
  • People come to St. Peter’s Square to feel Pope Francis.

Why do people want to “feel” Francis?

Because he has thrown open his arms wide to all of us, without caveat or exception, and extended the unflinching, unfailing love of God. And because he has broken down the walls, real and imagined, that separate the hierarchy of power and privilege from the rest of the world.

Whether it’s choosing to ride in the backseat of an economy car instead of an armored limousine, wearing black work shoes (his only pair) rather than the finest red leather slippers, or referring to himself most often as our “brother” and equal than as a father speaking to his children, he comports himself as a humble pilgrim who asks us to pray for him.

Francis is selfless in the age of the selfie, and yet he appears to take great delight in obliging requests, particularly from young people, to take a selfie with him as he did outside Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem last month.

When he stopped the papal Fiat on the tarmac in Philadelphia to greet a 10-year-old boy in a wheelchair, the pontiff didn’t just give the lad a quick pat on the head. He practically dove into the boy’s space, enveloping him in an embrace, cradling his face with both hands, and kissing him on the cheek. It wasn’t just an “I see you” gesture. It was “I love you and I am with you” in 20-foot-high letters.

That, my friends, is how you preach the Gospel.


Breaking In: Pope Francis in a Philly Prison

Sept. 28, 2015, Sojourners

Last week in his historic address to Congress, while expounding on society’s “responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” the pope expressed his concern for prison reform and clear support for the global abolition of the death penalty.

“This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty,” Francis said.

“I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”

Pope Francis’ focus in both word and action on prisons and prisoners during his U.S. papal visit was a thematic lynchpin in his ongoing pastoral outreach to the marginalized, disenfranchised, and even demonized of society.

Inmates at the Philadelphia prison include some of the most violent offenders, including murderers and rapists. But Francis insisted that God’s grace covers all manner of sins for all of us.

“All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from. All of us,” the pope said, repeating the word todos (“all of us”) in Spanish as he pointed to himself.



Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned
Sept. 25, 2015, Sojourners

Celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation (aka "confession") in an empty bar at New York City's Madison Square Garden before the papal mass, 9/25/15. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.
Celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation (aka “confession”) in an empty bar at New York City’s Madison Square Garden before the papal mass, 9/25/15. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

“Brace yourself, Father,” I said, taking a seat in a plastic chair facing my would-be confessor in Madison Square Garden’s dimly lit Madison Bar on Friday, a few hours before the start of the papal mass.

The bearded Franciscan priest in his dove gray vestments laughed and said, “No way. It’s all fine. Think of it as a big embrace of forgiveness from your heavenly father.”

OK. I tried to warn you.

“Let me see if I remember how this goes,” I began. “Bless me father for I have sinned; it’s been 35 years since my last confession.”

He tried not to look startled and almost pulled it off.

“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” he said, smiling kindly as he reached beneath his cassock to pull out a small paperback tract that, he explained, contained a list of questions that he could ask me that might make recounting all of my trespasses since the third grade a little less daunting.



In U.S., Pope’s Actions, As Usual, Tell a Richer Story
Sept. 24, 2015, Sojourners

Wednesday marked the first time we’ve heard this pope speak at length in English. It is at least his third language — his first two being Spanish and the Italian he spoke at home with his parents, who emigrated from Italy to to Argentina before he was born.

Language is a powerful medium and in his native tongue(s), Pope Francis is wonderfully articulate — poetic, even. As we listened to him speak at the White House, those of us who have followed him closely immediately noticed the uncharacteristic uneasiness with which he spoke. I couldn’t help but imagine how frustrating it must be for a man who so obviously loves language not to be able to express himself with his usual playfulness and nuance.

Some commentators have said they thought the pope looked uncomfortable, even angry as he listened to Obama’s address Wednesday on the south lawn of the White House. He sat nearly motionless with a rather dour expression. But I don’t think he was annoyed or uneasy. I think he was concentrating on understanding what the president was saying. It’s his “resting pope face,” if you will.

Reportedly, Pope Francis has spent many months boning up on his English in advance of his first visit to the United States. Learning a new language is never easy, and English can be especially challenging. Can you imagine tackling English’s implausible spelling and grammar in your late 70s?

You might pull a face, too.


First Impressions: Pope Francis Arrives in the United States
Sept. 22, 2015, Sojourners

As Pope Francis’ motorcade made its way from the Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., late Tuesday afternoon, it made a hard left from scenic Rock Creek Parkway onto Massachusetts Avenue, wending its way northwestward at a fast clip along the manicured thoroughfare known as Embassy Row.

Riding in the passenger-side back seat of his tiny, black Fiat 500L, the 78-year-old pontiff leaned his body toward the open window, stuck his arm out, turned his smiling face toward the street, and waived at the modest clutches of pedestrians law enforcement had allowed to stand along the sidewalk to greet him as he whizzed by.

Along the way, Francis passed dozens of embassies representing nations from six of the world’s seven continents, a group of school kids with signs that read “Te Queremos Papa!,” and one lemonade stand where three boys from the neighborhood were selling cold drinks for $1.50 a cup.

(No, the pope didn’t stop the motorcade to buy a drink and a cookie. But he might have — he’s been known to make such unscheduled stops to visit with regular folks, the kind in whose company he seems far more comfortable than he does hobnobbing with heads of state or captains of industry. )

The pope rode past the South African embassy with its statue of Nelson Mandela, right arm raised in a fist of solidarity, out front — and then, almost directly across the street, the hulking statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill raising two fingers in a peace sign (or to hail a cab) at the southernmost end of the British Embassy’s sprawling grounds.

The Mandela and Churchill statues almost high-five each other across Massachusetts Avenue while the pope’s humble hatchback, surrounded by massive Secret Service SUVs and swarms of police motorcycles, passed beneath their outstretched arms.

I wonder if Francis noticed the statues, and thought of the men — so different from one another, but each remembered as a hero — and wondered what his own place in history might be.


@PONTIFEXCELLENT: Papa Was a Rollin' Stone…

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.For the first time in its 46-year-plus history, Rolling Stone Magazine has chosen to put a pope on its cover. (This also means Papa has scored the Holy Trifecta of Magazine Covers: Time, The New Yorker, and now this.)

Papa Frank is the cover-pontiff (and lead story) in Rolling Stone’s February 2014 edition. The story, written by contributor Mark Binelli (who has most recently also written about the Nuns-on-the-Bus controversy, the “hijacking” of Kansas politics by conservatives, and Johnny Depp the “last buccaneer”) is lengthy and as riveting as any of the magazine’s best narrative pieces.

In his story titled, “Pope Francis: The Times They Are A-Changin‘” (with the subtitle, “Inside the Pope’s Gentle Revolution”), Binelli writes in part:

After the disastrous papacy of Benedict, a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares, Francis’ basic mastery of skills like smiling in public seemed a small miracle to the average Catholic. But he had far more radical changes in mind. pope-francis-news-for-the-first-time-in-history-a-pontiff-has-graced-the-cover-of-rolling-stone-magazineBy eschewing the papal palace for a modest two-room apartment, by publicly scolding church leaders for being “obsessed” with divisive social issues like gay marriage, birth control and abortion (“Who am I to judge?” Francis famously replied when asked his views on homosexual priests) and – perhaps most astonishingly of all – by devoting much of his first major written teaching to a scathing critique of unchecked free-market capitalism, the pope revealed his own obsessions to be more in line with the boss’ son….

Down in the rainy square, the crowd cheers for its new friend, Cool Pope Francis, until he retreats back into the mysteries of the walled city he now rules. I’m reminded of another moment from the press conference on the plane, when a reporter attempted to pin Francis down on gay marriage and abortion. And what is His Holiness’ own position on these matters? The pope’s artful dodge struck me as brilliantly Clintonian. “That of the Church,” Francis said simply. “I’m a son of the Church.”

He didn’t add, because he didn’t have to, that he’s the father now, too.

@PONTIFEXCELLENT: "Nuns Are Grrreat!

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.After Mass in St. Peter’s on Feb. 2, Papa Frank spoke to the world about those leading the “consecrated life,” i.e., clergy and men/women religious. (Sunday was the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which the Catholic church marks as “World Day for Consecrated Life.”

According to Catholic News Service, Papa Frank said:

“There is such a great need for their presence, which reinforces and renews the commitment to spreading the Gospel, Christian education, charity for the neediest, contemplative prayer, the human and spiritual formation of the young and families, and the commitment to justice and peace in the human family,” the pope said.

Straying from his prepared text, Pope Francis told people gathered in the square: “Think what would happen if there weren’t any sisters, if there weren’t any sisters in the hospitals, no sisters in the missions, no sisters in the schools. Think what the church would be like without sisters — no, that’s unthinkable.”

Consecrated life is a gift that moves the church forward, he said. “These women who consecrate their lives to carrying forward the message of Jesus — they’re great!”

I couldn’t agree more, Papa.

Below are a few shots of some of the thousands of sisters who gathered to celebrate Papa Frank’s inauguration mass not quite a year ago. I LOVE nuns. 


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.During a special ceremony in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday where he baptized 32 infants, Papa Frank told the mothers present to go ahead and nurse their babies if the children were hungry.

Right there. In the chapel. Under the Michaelangelos. In front of God and everybody.

“Some will cry because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry,” the pope said. “If they are hungry, mothers, let them eat, no worries, because here, they are the main focus.”

How awesome is that?

Many mothers are reticent to breastfeed their children in public, particularly in “sacred spaces,” such as houses of worship. Obviously if the pope himself doesn’t have a problem with it, neither should anyone else.

This isn’t the first time Papa Frank has given his blessing to breastfeeding. Last month in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa the pope recalled a young mother who was holding her crying baby behind a screen at one of his general audiences at the Vatican.

“I said to her: ‘Madam, I think the child’s hungry. … Please give it something to eat!’ ” the Pope said. “She was shy and didn’t want to breastfeed in public, while the Pope was passing…I wish to say the same to humanity: Give people something to eat! That woman had milk to give to her child; we have enough food in the world to feed everyone.”


@PONTIFEXCELLENT: A Hitchhiker's Guide

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.During his audience in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, Papa Frank spotted a familiar face among the throngs in the square: the Rev. Fabian Baez, a priest from the pontiff’s native Archdiocese of Buenos Aires with one of the world’s most awesome names. (Fabian Baez? Come on. His parents must have been 60s music fans. It’s almost as great as, say, Mick Joplin or Elton Faithfull.)

Seeing his friend from Argentina, Papa Frank didn’t simply wave or blow a kiss. Instead, he broke with Vatican protocol with characteristic panache by stopping the Popemobile and motioning for Baez to join him in the car as he road through the square.

It makes me want to send Papa Frank a bumper sticker for the popemobile: Will Stop for Homies. (Se Detendrá para Los Homies.)

@PONTIFEXCELLENT: 'Nolle timere'

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.To my memory, I have never been brought to tears listening to a Pope’s Christmas Eve homily. Until tonight.

Weeping as I type this, wrapping a few last gifts, listening to the replay of the Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica, I am so grateful for this man. “Sometimes there’s a man … he’s the man for his place and time.”

I am so grateful for this man, for our beloved Papa Frank.

Here’s the part of his homily that turned on the waterworks. It’s just so poetic, beautiful, clear, and true:


Papa Frank said:

The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing  we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.

The shepherds were the first to see this “tent,” to receive the news of Jesus’ birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks. Pilgrims keep watch at night and that’s what they did. Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence.

Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praise of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.

On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us. He so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). That’s what the angels said to the shepherds and I, too, repeat: Do not be afraid! Our Father Jesus is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Our father forgives always. He is mercy. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is our peace. Amen.

You can watch the replay of the Midnight Mass here:

And read the prepared text of the pope’s homily (spoken it was slightly different) HERE.

Merry Christmas everyone. May you see the light in the darkness, know God is with us, and be not afraid.

@PONTIFEXCELLENT: Sneaky goodness

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.Papa Frank is a cheeky monkey. Apparently, he’s been sneaking out of the Vatican at night, dressed in civvies, to hang out with homeless folks.

According to the Huffington Post:

A recent interview with Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the “Almoner of His Holiness,” raised speculation that the Pope joins him on his nightly trips into Rome to give alms to the poor, and it turns out that the rumors are probably true.

A knowledgeable source in Rome told The Huffington Post that “Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women.”

Krajewski earlier said, “When I say to him ‘I’m going out into the city this evening’, there’s the constant risk that he will come with me,” and he merely smiled and ducked the question when reporters asked him point-blank whether the Pope accompanied him into the city.

When he was still Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, Papa Frank used to do the same thing, sneaking out at night “to break bread with the homeless, sitting with them on the street and eating with them to show that they were loved,” HuffPo says. So the next time you find yourself riding the bus at night in the Eternal City and the priest across the aisle looks really familiar, it may be Pontifex Rex himself (or an angel in disguise.)

Just a stranger on a bus …

Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, second from left, travels on the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Via HuffingtonPost
Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, second from left, travels on the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Via HuffingtonPost



<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.So it’s almost Advent and winter’s chill has arrived in the Eternal City.

Papa Frank is a good shepherd and he’s concerned for the welfare of his flock — particularly those who aren’t dressed appropriately for the weather.

The folks at Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau posted this awesome Vine of Papa Frank talking to someone in the audience in St. Peter’s Square where you can see him saying something to the effect of, “It’s cold outside and you’re wearing short sleeves?!

Ah, Il Papa. He’s a hugger and he worries. He’s like a Bubbe (or a Zayde, actually). Reason #890,398,471 why we (heart) him so much.

@PONTIFEXCELLENT: Oh, snap! Edition

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.Yes, he is loving, kind, warm, gregarious, charming, tender. But Papa Frank is also a bad ass and he’s not afraid to tell it like it is.

Take his homily this morning at Santa Martae, where, according to a report from Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service, Il Papa said:

“We should all call ourselves sinners, yes, all of us,” he said, but “not corrupt people. The corrupt man is stuck in a state of self-importance, he doesn’t know what humility is,” Pope Francis said, according to a report by Vatican Radio. “Jesus spoke to these corrupt men of the ‘beauty of being whitewashed tombs’ (St. Matthew 23: 27), which appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead bones and putrefaction,” the pope said.

“We all know someone in this situation, and how much harm they do to the church,” he said. “Corrupt Christians, corrupt priests. How much harm they do to the church, because they don’t live in the spirit of the Gospel, but in the spirit of worldliness.”

Papa Frank expounded on the Gospel reading for today from St. Luke 17,  in which Jesus says of those who would lead or cause others to sin:  “it would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea.”

What is the difference between sin and scandal?

“The difference is that one who sins and repents, asks forgiveness, recognizes his weakness, feels like a child of God, humbles himself and asks Jesus for salvation,” Papa Frank said.

“But what is scandalous about the other?” the pope asked. “That he doesn’t repent. He continues to sin but pretends to be Christian, (he leads) a double life.”

Don't even start with me. You know who you are.
Don’t even start with me. You know who you are.
( Photo: REUTERS)

@PONTIFEXCELLENT: The Graft Stops Here

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.Yes he’s a sweetheart, but Papa Frank is also tough as nails.

In his homily at early morning mass in Domus Sanctae Marthae (the hostel where he lives), the pope talked about bribery — a practice that has become, in some quarters of his new country and Vatican City itself — all too common.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Il Papa said, in part:

“Devotees of the goddess of kickbacks” bring home “dirty bread” for their children to eat….”Their children, perhaps educated in expensive colleges, perhaps raised in well-educated circles, have received filth as a meal from their father,” rendering them “starved of dignity,” he said in his homily, according to Vatican Radio.

“Perhaps it starts out with a small envelope (of cash), but it’s like a drug,” he said, and “the bribery habit becomes an addiction.”


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.At the end of Wednesday’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Papa Frank embraced a man. He took the man’s disfigured face in his hands, cradled it in his chest, kissed him, and blessed him.

I’d imagine the man is not used to being embraced like that — not by strangers, maybe not even by family and friends.

But the Pope is a lover and, as I’ve mentioned before, a hugger.

A photo of the embrace went viral (as it should have):

Pope Francis' General Audience


According to CNN:

The man the Pope comforted suffers from neurofibromatosis, according to the Catholic News Agency. The genetic disorder causes pain and thousands of tumors throughout the body. It leads to hearing and vision loss, heart and blood vessel complications, and severe disability from nerve compression by tumors.

Earlier today, Papa Frank tweeted the following: 11h

Saints are people who belong fully to God. They are not afraid of being mocked, misunderstood or marginalized.

I can’t help but wonder whether Papa Frank was thinking of that man when he tweeted that.

Also Wednesday at the general audience, @Pontifex congratulated a newlywed couple who are members of L’Associazione Arcobaleno Marco Iagulli-Onlus (an organization that uses clowns and humor to cheer sick children). They’re known by their red plastic noses — the international symbol for healing humor (think Patch Adams). They couple were wearing their wedding garb and their noses.

So Papa Frank put a nose on, too. (Have I said today how much I love this guy?)

Photo by Alamy Live News via the Daily Mail
Photo by Alamy Live News via the Daily Mail


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.In the General Audience at St. Peter’s today, Papa Frank asked the 50,000 or so folks standing in the square for a solid:

Pray for a baby named Noemi.

Apparently the child, who he had met before the public audience and may even have been among those in the crowd, is gravely ill.

Papa Frank said, in part (translated from the Italian but watch the video below where you can see how expressive and funny and warm he is):

“And now, I will ask all of you for an act of charity. Don’t worry, it’s not about money,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “Even though we might not know her, she is Baptized. She is one of us, she’s a Christian. Let’s express an act of love for her. First, in silence, let’s ask the Lord to help her at this very moment. May He give her health. Let’s take a moment of silence, then let’s pray a Hail Mary.”


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.Papa Frank cares about all of his flock — and just what part of all don’t you understand?

To wit, in a worldwide survey launched by the Vatican today, questions about how to care for (pastorally) LGBTQ folks and their families were among those posed in a lengthy questionnaire sent round the globe.

According to a report from Agence France Presse:

The Vatican on Tuesday launched an unprecedented worldwide consultation on the new realities of family life including gay marriage as part of Pope Francis’s efforts to reform the Catholic Church.

A questionnaire has been sent to bishops around the world asking them for detailed information about the “many new situations requiring the Church’s attention and pastoral care”.

“Concerns which were unheard of until a few years ago have arisen today as a result of different situations, from the widespread practice of cohabitation… to same-sex unions,” it said.

The 39 questions are unusual because of their non-judgemental, practical nature in what could be a signal of greater openness and increased pastoral care regardless of a believer’s background.

Referring to gay couples, one questions asks: “What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?”

“In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?”

I’m so grateful Papa Frank is being, well, frank about issues related to LGBTQ and families in general (which are complex, no matter how they are created.) It’s much better than sticking his fingers in his ears and shouting “LALALALALALALA” with the hope that it might go away if he wills it to be so.

I like him. A lot.

Cartoon of Papa Frank tending to his flock by cartoonist Tony Jones: http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/pope-francis-tends-flock/
Cartoon of Papa Frank tending to his flock by cartoonist Tony Jones: http://www.cagle.com/2013/09/pope-francis-tends-flock/

Which Catholic Women Would You Want to See Elevated to the College of Cardinals?

Lady in Red -  Taras Loboda 1961 - Ukrainian Portrait painter - Tutt'Art@ (40)Ladies in Red, anyone?

Seeing as how it is, apparently, “theoretically possible,” for Papa Frank to make a woman a cardinal, we wonder who’d be on your list if you had to give him a few names. Remember, they needn’t be women religious (i.e. nuns). Think outside the box. (What’s a box anyway?)

Please use the reply/comment box below and tell us who and, if you feel like it, why.

The vestments are already rather unisexual. But they would need to do something about the hats.

The birettas are easy enough (just add a slightly larger tassle or a touch of netting), and honestly, you needn’t do a thing to the galeros.

But if there were a female cardinal (or two or three) perhaps a wee re-imagining of the zucchettos. Perhaps something like ….


or maybe …





Too much?


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.

The time Papa Frank quoted Dostoyevsky…

Last night in Rome, the Moscow Synodal Choir gave a concert in the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major (the pontiff’s favorite – it’s the first he visited the morning after he was elected back in March). In Papa Frank’s message to the choir, read by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Vatican’s prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, he said, in part:

“‘Beauty will save the world’.” A quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

The Pope continued: “Music, painting, sculpture, architecture is simply the beauty that unites us to grow in the faith which is celebrated, in prophetic hope and in witnessed charity”, he said. ““Looking back over the history of Christianity which spans thousands of years, we may observe that in spite of the separate historical events and different ways of understanding revelation, a deep unity has been maintained in art…art in all its forms, does not exist only for simple aesthetic enjoyment but because, through art the Church in every moment of history and in every culture, explains and interprets revelation for the good of the People of God. Art in the Church fundamentally exists for evangelization”.

“Today the Church can and must breathe with both lungs, the eastern lung and the western lung. Where we still do not completely do this, according to the measure of unity asked for by Jesus in the prayer to the Father, we can do this in many other ways.”

Like … say … art.

St. Francis of Assisi (left) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky (right)
St. Francis of Assisi (left) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky (right)




<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.Papa Frank is a romantic.

According to RomeReports:

Each week, Pope Francis breaks down barriers between him and the pilgrims at Wednesday’s General Audience. But even so, finding a good spot to see him at St. Peter’s Square is tough, not everyone can be front and center. But the privileged group who can have easy access to the front of the line are newlyweds. All the couple needs is to don their wedding gowns, and access is virtually guaranteed. …Pope Francis greets each newlywed couple personally, once the General Audience ends. These two couples were among the forty or so that made it to this week’s audience.


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.Today is All Saints Day, the time in the liturgical calendar when we remember those who have gone before us into the More – that Great Cloud of Witnesses who crowd the bleachers and cheer us on while the rest of us play out the game of Life in this mortal coil.

But what is a saint? The Bible says we all are – those of us who know and love God.

Today in St. Peter’s Square, before reciting the Angelus, Papa Frank had a few things to say about saints. This was my favorite bit:

“The saints are friends of God,” he said. But they “are not superheroes, nor were they born perfect. They are like us, each one of us.”

“Friends of God.”

“Like us, each one of us.”


According to Catholic News Service, Papa Frank continued, saying:

“The saints are men and women who have joy in their hearts and bring it to others. Never hate, serve others — the neediest, pray and be joyful, this is the path of holiness.”

The pope said the saints’ message to women and men today is to “trust in the Lord because he never disappoints.”

“He’s a good friend who is always at our side,” he said.

With the example of the way they lived their lives, the saints encourage all Christians “to not be afraid to go against the tide or to be misunderstood and derided when we speak about (Jesus) and the Gospel.”

Frederick Buechner (aka St. Freddie of Rupert to my tribe) said this about saints and I love its imagery and simplicity: “In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchiefs. Those handkerchiefs are called saints.”

It’s been almost a year since my father, Muzzy, (who always carried white cloth handkerchief) passed over into the More. He now sits next to my Aunts Mary and Patti and Carol and Joan and Jeannie, my Uncles Satch and Ceasar, Grammy and Poppy Page and Grampy Falsani and Nellie; my dear friend David Kuo who left us last year, my favorite professors, Jimma Young and Arthur Holmes; Seamus and Bob and Iris and Kirsty and Mr. Chevron (in the section reserved for Irish hooligans); Johnny and Ravi and Lou and Buddy and Billy with the band; sweet Naomi, Tom and Henri and Jack and Flannery; Vasco’s birth mother and father, Edina and Sylvester, and his siblings who died before him; and my beloved, pretty-fucking-close-to-a-superhero-in-real-life buddy, Mr. Mark, and all the others gathered in the cloud of witnesses in the cheering section just on the other side of the veil.



<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.During his general audience today, Papa Frank talked about times of doubt that we all — himself included — must journey through during the life of faith, and the importance of having the courage (and humility) to ask for help from God and from others.

He said:

Who among us, all of us, has not experienced insecurity, disorientation, and even doubt along the path of faith? We have all experienced this; I have too, all of us! It forms part of the path of faith, the path of our lives. None of this should surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by our fragility and limits….

We all are fragile, we all have limits. Do not be afraid. We all have them. Even in these difficult moments, it is necessary to trust in the help of God, through filial prayer and, at the same time, it is important to find the courage and the humility to open ourselves to others and ask for help.

To ask for a hand.



On Monday, Papa Frank welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize-winning heroine, to the Vatican where, among other things, he told her they were “fundamentally on the same wavelength” regarding nonviolence, democracy and “peaceful coexistence in today’s world,” according to the UK’s Catholic Herald.

I love this.

She’s  a Buddhist. He’s a Catholic (obviously). Same wavelength.


The Catholic Herald says:


The Holy Father told me that emotions such as hatred and fear diminish life and the value of the person,” Suu Kyi told reporters after the 20-minute meeting. She said the Pope also told her “we need to value love and understanding to improve the lives of people.”

Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, called Suu Kyi “one of the most significant personalities in Asia in the area of peace, democracy and peaceful coexistence” and a “symbol of non-violent commitment to democracy and peace.”

A military junta governing Burma kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for a total of 15 years between 1989 and 2010. An elected parliamentary government took power in 2011, and the following year Suu Kyi was elected to parliament, where she is now chairwoman of the Committee for the Rule of Law and Tranquility.

Father Lombardi said Pope Francis “naturally assured (Suu Kyi) of his prayers for Burma and for the Catholic community and the Church in her country, and of his appreciation for the lady’s commitment to development and democracy in her country, assuring her of the collaboration of the Catholic Church in these great causes.”

The Vatican does not have diplomatic relations with Burma, whose overwhelmingly Buddhist population of 55 million is only 1 percent Catholic.