Tagged: Pope Francis

Which One Of Jesus’ Disciples Are You? Q&A With BuzzFeed Reporter and Quiz Writer Ellie Hall

If you use social media, you’ve probably taken a BuzzFeed quiz. (Or 20.)

If you haven’t participated, the gist is simple: you answer a series of multiple choice questions on a particular topic (choose a color, pick a relaxing activity, etc.) and the popular website BuzzFeed will tell you which Bill Murray character you are, or what you should eat for lunch, or what decade you actually belong in. You share your answer on Facebook.

Recently, I’ve noticed a spike in these quizzes’ popularity among my Catholic Facebook friends. Two in particular have been everywhere: “Which One Of Jesus’ Disciples Are You?” and “Which Biblical Heroine Are You?”

Unsurprisingly, the same BuzzFeed reporter,  Ellie Hall,  is behind both quizzes, bringing a dash of religion into the world of viral web content.

Ellie was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work via email.

What goes in to writing one of your religion-themed BuzzFeed quizzes? Could you describe the process?

It’s always tricky! I tend to spend at least 2 or 3 days thinking about the possible results and coming up with the questions and answers. I reread Bible and Torah passages that mention the men and women in question and try to get a sense about their personalities and how they’ve been portrayed throughout history.  It sounds silly considering that I’m making a quiz, but I try to be as accurate as possible. For example, in the “Which Biblical Heroine Are You?” quiz, I made sure that the “Pick a Flower” question included all the flowers that have been traditionally associated with each woman. So Esther’s flower was a myrtle, a nod to her birth name, Hadassah. Overall, I just try to be thoughtful and make a smart quiz that I would want to take.

They stand out among the “What Muppet are you?”-style quizzes, and they always go viral among my Catholic Facebook friends. Why do you think they’ve gotten such an energetic response?

I think it’s really fun to put the men and women that we’ve heard stories about in church and Sunday School since we were little into a modern context, which is what I’m trying to do with these quizzes. I also think people are surprised to see a site like BuzzFeed publishing fun religious-themed content! But why not, if we do it the right way? It’s really amazing to see so many people enjoying them.

You’ve also written a few things about Pope Francis, who continues to dominate the media. What about him do you think draws people in?

I think that Pope Francis is very good at demonstrating the qualities that people associate with the best of Catholicism and religion in general. He seems approachable and humble — characteristics that aren’t usually associated with parish priests as opposed to the head of the Church. I think that’s the main reason why people, not just the media, love him.

Speaking of Pope Francis: If he took the “Which one of Jesus’ disciples are you?” quiz, who do you think he’d get, and why?

Ha! I think he’d probably get St. John. He has a very warm and comforting presence and I could easily see him having a lot in common with the “Beloved Disciple.”

If the Vatican brought you in as a media consultant, what advice would you give them?

I think I’d encourage them to branch out a little more on social media and interact more with their followers. Not through the @pontifex account, obviously, but maybe set up a few more Twitter accounts and a Facebook page that shows more behind-the-scenes moments from the Vatican. “Open Doors.” I’d want to call it something like “Open Doors.VA” and have an internet-savvy team that would interact with people and show a different side of the Holy See. Humanize it, a bit. Demystify it. I don’t know, but I’d really like to see more of the spontaneous moments that have made Pope Francis such a media darling.

Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace Message: We Are One Human Family

Another day, another fantastic message from Pope Francis.

January 1 is the World Day of Peace, and each year, the Pope releases a (relatively) short document on a particular peace-related theme.

For 2014, Pope Francis focuses on the idea of one human family in a message called “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace.”

He reflects on how commitment to the intimate, familial relationship that connects all people is essential for peace to grow.

Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.

Our sister and brotherhood comes from the teachings of Jesus, who tells his followers, “For you have only one Father, who is God, and you are all brothers and sisters” (cf. Mt 23:8-9).

Pope Francis writes, “The basis of fraternity is found in God’s fatherhood. We are not speaking of a generic fatherhood, indistinct and historically ineffectual, but rather of the specific and extraordinarily concrete personal love of God for each man and woman (cf. Mt 6:25-30).”

This is a radical tenet of Christianity. While we build barriers between us, separating our family, our community, our religion, our country from others, the belief that humanity shares one father makes us all a literal family.

If we truly believe this, then it has profound implications for how we live as individuals and as communities. Pope Francis writes:

In Christ, the other is welcomed and loved as a son or daughter of God, as a brother or sister, not as a stranger, much less as a rival or even an enemy. In God’s family, where all are sons and daughters of the same Father, and, because they are grafted to Christ, sons and daughters in the Son, there are no “disposable lives”. All men and women enjoy an equal and inviolable dignity. All are loved by God. All have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who died on the Cross and rose for all. This is the reason why no one can remain indifferent before the lot of our brothers and sisters.

We seem to value some lives less than others in our societies. It’s tempting to ignore the marginalization of those who are poor, the unborn, immigrants, and the homeless, for example, because solutions are difficult. But what if a biological relative was poor or homeless? What kind of urgent care would we show then? This type of self-giving love, reaching out to all, is what Christian faith demands of us.

Pope Francis describes the roll that nations and governments have to work for solidarity, social justice, and true charity among themselves, resisting war in favor of “dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”

But he also calls individual Christians to practice simple living, a form of fraternity “that must be at the basis of all others.” He writes:

Finally, there is yet another form of promoting fraternity[…]It is the detachment of those who choose to live a sober and essential lifestyle, of those who, by sharing their own wealth, thus manage to experience fraternal communion with others. This is fundamental for following Jesus Christ and being truly Christian. It is not only the case of consecrated persons who profess the vow of poverty, but also of the many families and responsible citizens who firmly believe that it is their fraternal relationship with their neighbours which constitutes their most precious good.

This Advent and Christmas seasons, we have the chance to renew our commitment to our human family. Here are some practical ways to invest in our fraternal relationship with our neighbors, “our most precious good”:

  • Instead of exchanging gifts with someone this Christmas, agree to donate the funds instead to an organization helping people to lift themselves out of poverty. Consider supporting CRS’ relief and rebuilding work in the Philippines.
  • Spend some time learning about the challenges so many of our sisters and brothers face. Get a couple people together and stream the documentary “A Place at the Table” on Netflix, which explores the crisis of hunger in the US. Discuss it afterward.
  • Find an agency near you that (1) depends on volunteers to help it run, and (2) provides you with the opportunity to get to know people who are marginalized. Soup kitchens and nursing home activities departments are two good places to start.
  • Lobby your elected leaders to fight hunger by participating in Catholic advocacy efforts online.
  • Remember the example of another Francis, St. Francis of Assisi, by praying the prayer named for him. A friend of mine once wondered how your life would be different if you prayed this every day for a whole month. Why not try it?
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

There are over a billion Catholics on Earth. Imagine how the world might change if we all just did something small to respond to Pope Francis’ message. There’s no reason not to try.

Jack Jezreel Podcast: St. Francis, Pope Francis, and Us

During his visit to the diocese last week, Jack Jezreel of JustFaith Ministries sat down with me for a conversation about St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis, and how their examples can inspire us today.

Listen for Jack’s four examples of how Pope Francis is living St. Francis’ legacy. (Closeness with those who are poor, simple living, care for creation, interfaith understanding.)

Top Five Justice Quotes from Interview with Pope Francis

The first extensive interview with Pope Francis since his election was published today in several Jesuit journals, including America here in the US. It’s long but great; read the whole thing. A quick scan led me to a few fantastic justice-related quotes. Here are five.

Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor.

When we make important decisions as a church and as a society, we should be in touch with how those decisions will affect those who are the most vulnerable.

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of going to the edges of society and welcoming people in to the church community. And his powerful call to “always consider the person” emphasizes the dignity of every child of God, no matter what.

The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

This quote is Pope Francis’ response to critics who say he has not talked enough about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. He clearly believes in the Church teachings on these important areas, but that it’s important to lead instead with the basics. How in our own lives might we live the joy and love of the Gospel without going right to the hot-button issues first? Our relationship with Christ — as individuals and as a community — is primary, and the “moral consequences” flow from that relationship.

The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.

Because of our belief in the equal dignity of every human person, we must be sure that groups that have been historically marginalized in the Church are welcomed and empowered. The last line of this quote is so important: “The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.” How might we empower women in our parishes to take on leadership roles?

When it comes to social issues, it is one thing to have a meeting to study the problem of drugs in a slum neighborhood and quite another thing to go there, live there and understand the problem from the inside and study it. There is a brilliant letter by Father Arrupe to the Centers for Social Research and Action on poverty, in which he says clearly that one cannot speak of poverty if one does not experience poverty, with a direct connection to the places in which there is poverty.

Pope Francis again calls us to go to the edges. We cannot speak of poverty if we have not made a “direct connection” to places where poverty exists. Our faith sends us out from our churches and places of comfort to accompany those who are forgotten and oppressed.

Why is Pope Francis Calling Catholics to Fast for Peace in Syria?

When Pope Francis called for a day of Fasting and Prayer for peace in Syria, many Catholic outlets pulled together prayer services and resources (including this blog). But why are we called to pray AND fast this Saturday? 

In 2009, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio issued a Lenten message to the Archdiocese of Buenos Aries all about fasting. His ideas then shed light on his request for fasting now:

In his Lenten message, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said amidst the atmosphere of “sadness” on display in the streets of Argentina with so many going hungry and in poverty, the Lenten fast is a way of expressing “solidarity with those who fast involuntarily” and helps people overcome indifference.

In a press release about the message, the cardinal said the reality of “men and women begging or going through trash, the elderly sleeping on street corners, kids sleeping on top of subway vents to stay warm” no longer “shocks us.”

“We show no interest in their lives, their stories, their needs or their future. How many times did their pleading looks made us look the other way and walk by.  When we get used to something we also become indifferent,” he warned.

Cardinal Berglogio called on the faithful to observe the Lenten fast as “God desires,” that is, “giving bread to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, clothing to the naked, and not turning our backs on our neighbor.”

“Today we need to fast by working so that others don’t have to fast. Today we can only practice fasting by taking of the pain and powerlessness of the millions who go hungry. Whoever does not fast for the poor cheats God. To fast is to love,” he said.

Our fasting this Saturday is a powerful way to stand with those who “fast involuntarily” in Syria, who are going without safety, shelter, peace, and more.