Pope Francis gave the Roman Curia an earful, they say. Rather than limiting himself to general niceties and well-wishes in the traditional Christmas address, he told the cardinals, bishops and other members of the Curia what’s wrong with them and what they must improve to function properly again. They say.
Reality is a bit different, as it often is.
To start, the fact of a Pope giving a meaty address is nothing new, and certainly not when that Pope is Francis. He challenges his audience, and on this occasion he chose to do so in light of the preparation for Christmas, of which the sacrament of Confession is an important part. He lists no less than fifteen pitfalls that the Curia must look out for. But only the Curia? Not in the least. At the end of his list he says:
“Brothers, these sicknesses and these temptations are, naturally, a danger for every Christian and for every Curia, community, Congregation, parish, Ecclesial Movement, etc. and they can strike at the individual as much as at the communal level.”
We should all listen well to the Pope’s words in this, because the risks for the Curia are no different than the risk we ourselves run. Rather than seeing the fifteen points in the speech as stern warnings, we can turn them around and use them as good intentions for Christmas and the new year.
- Consider yourself as important as everyone else.
- Enjoy the gift of rest and relaxation, and the fruits of companionship and time for others and for God.
- Stay in touch with people and their feelings, wishes and hopes (as well as your own).
- Have confidence in the Holy Spirit in your work and life.
- Know your capabilities and those of others around you, and coordinate.
- Always remain in an encounter with the Lord.
- Stay true to yourself and consider the interests of others as much as those of yourself.
- Always remain a shepherd for others, through example and care.
- Speak directly, openly and without complaining.
- Think of duties, not just rights, and honour God rather than persons.
- Think of others, share with them and take joy in what they say and do.
- Be happy, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Travel lightly through life, don’t be weighed down by possessions.
- Remain open to others, also as a group.
- Don’t show off or take pride in your abilities or achievements.
Good advice, if not always easy. I suspect that if we apply these good intentions, the change will be astounding. And it’s not our change, achieved by us, but by the Holy Spirit working in us. As Pope Francis says:
“We must clarify that it is only the Holy Spirit – the soul of the Mystical Body of Christ, as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed affirms: “I believe … in the Holy Spirit, Lord and giver of life” – who heals every infirmity. It is the Holy Spirit who supports every sincere effort of purification and every good will of conversion. He it is who makes us understand that every member participates in the sanctification of the Body and in its weakening. He is the promoter of harmony: “ipse harmonia est,” says Saint Basil. Saint Augustine says to us: “While a part adheres to the body, its healing is not despaired of; instead, what was cut off cannot be taken care of or healed.”