Today Roman Catholics around the world were introduced to the new Bishop of Rome and I was struck by some of the similarities and glaring differences between a humble servant of Jesus and the self-serving leader of the free world.
Both men are faced with problems concerning the financial health of their respective institutions.
They struggle with issues of gay marriage and homosexuality. There are issues of pedophilia and scandal in both organizations.
There is a disenchantment and apathy not only in politics but also the church. To this end, voter participation and religious attendance together are in decline.
As someone who has been a non-practicing Catholic for a while now, I was following the Conclave with just a passing interest. I wasn't really concerned about the successor to Benedict as I felt the Church had somehow become less important in my life.
But today, as I watched an unknown Cardinal from Argentina become Pope Francis, I saw some of the same enthusiasm, hope, and anticipation that accompanied the Inaugural address of the 44th President of the United States. With one exception...when then Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis addressed the sea of humanity that was amassed in Rome there was a quiet, serene, sense of humility and purpose. As he looked upon the crowd and the news organizations scrambled to fill in details of his life, there was a sense that this man actually did live the simple life. I got the sense that his life story of service to others was the real deal and not something that was "spin" from a fawning media or a press agent.
And that's when it struck me how different men see their purpose in life.
Barack Obama comes from a mentality of a "taker." His entire life has been centered around how the system can be used to make his life easier. It's evident in just the little things. The use of a private jet for his own purpose when people in this country haven't worked in a couple of years and there is no prospect for work on the horizon. The suspension of tours of the White House...not HIS house, but the PEOPLE'S house to save $76,000 dollars a week. While money IS money, could there have been another way? His plans to throw a star-studded party for his wife's 50th birthday with the likes of Adelle and Beyonce. When it comes to his "priorities," money is apparently no object.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a "giver." According to other religious, he lives modestly in a small apartment in Buenos Aires. He shuns the trappings of a Cardinal, not utilizing the mansions, limousines, or other finer things associated with his office in the Church. It is reported he cares for an elderly, handicapped, member of the Jesuit community. He is known to take public transportation and is known simply as Father Jorge to the masses he serves.
As I was watching his first appearance on the Papal balcony I saw that there may be an opportunity for my Church to get back to the teachings of Peter and the other disciples. I saw a man of quiet strength that didn't need the trappings of office to show everyone how important he is.
I have missed going to Mass. I believe Pope Francis has given me a reason to go.