The Papacy – Part II: Who Is Knocking On The Pope's Door?

By Father John Walsh on March 3, 2013

Will the next Pope be from the Americas, Europe, or Africa?  Speculation is growing exponentially about who the future occupant of the papal residence will be.  More so for us in Quebec with the mention that a Canadian Cardinal, a Quebecker, Marc Ouellet, is in the running!  The other names on the list are several in number and not known by many outside of Italy or South America or Ghana.  The choice will be made shortly but while waiting I recall a priest I knew as a teen-ager, Father Wally Sutton.  

Father Wally welcomed veterans whose DVA cheques he would receive as their “guardian.”  When they came to visit he would give them a part of their money over the period of a month so that they wouldn’t squander it.  It was evident, just looking at them, that they were living hard times.  We gave them names.  The one without teeth, chewy; the one with combs in his pockets, combs; and the one with newspapers in his coat pockets, the paper boy.  Father always sat close to them on a bench inside the front door and with his arm around he offered them a sense of encouragement.  Then one night he told me about a man who rang the doorbell at three o’clock in the morning.  Opening the door, Father knew immediately that the man was at the lowest point in his life.  In a matter of minutes he identified himself as the son of the people who lived across the street.  He admitted he was an alcoholic who had ended up in the Bowry in New York City and that he had drifted all over the country for a several years. And yes he was a priest!  He had struggled with booze almost all his life and now he wanted to do something about his addiction.  

Father told him to go to his room and shower.  He put him to bed.  When he awoke Father had found him a suit that fit him and he was now presentable to meet his parents.  I will never forget the end of the story, John, you never know who is knocking at your door, open it and you will find it is Jesus.  As I reflect on who is knocking on the next pope’s door I see them lining up: the poor, the marginalized, the outcasts, the hungry, the beaten and the battered of life.  These are the people we are reminded about in the Gospels.  Lord, when did we see you hungry and we fed you or thirsty and give you to drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, naked and clothe you, sick or in prison and go to see you?  The answer cannot be avoided, “In so far as you did it to one of these, the last of my sisters or brothers, you did it to me.” 

Author Brian D. McLaren in his book, everything must change is preoccupied with two questions: What are the biggest problems in the world today? and, What do the life and teaching of Jesus have to say about these global problems?  The follow-up question is, How will the Church, under the leadership of a new pope, understand the life and teaching of Jesus to resolve the global problems the Church faces today?  I found the book insightful and gospel-driven in search of the Risen Christ, concealed and hidden in God.  McLaren quotes his friend Steve Chalke who explains the present situation like this: we have a jigsaw puzzle in a box, but someone put the wrong lid on the box. We keep trying to use the picture from the wrong lid as a guide to putting the pieces together.  .. the pieces actually fit together: the problem is with the picture on the lid.  So where is Jesus and where do we find his Spirit.   In the words of the Second Vatican Council in the Pastoral Constitution, paragraph one: The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the women and men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in our hearts. For ours is a community composed of women and men, united in Christ, and we are led by the Holy Spirit in our journey to the Kingdom of our Father and we are to welcome the news of salvation which is meant for every human being.  That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with humankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.  


Our present time of waiting in expectancy is a time for all of us to realize that God is concealed and hidden, and that the Risen Lord, now concealed and hidden in God, can be experienced when we live with the power to move human hearts to compassion, to self-esteem, to deep respect for others – and our faithfulness means we are concerned for others. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)


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