ON the second day of Holy Week, just after the triumph of Palm Sunday, we all watched in horror as Notre Dame de Paris burned. The loss has turned out to be almost entirely repairable, but the gut feeling of it will remain. What a terrible loss.
Yet through it, we find our selves facing the greatest and most beatifying aspect of Christianity – sacrifice. Through sacrifice we rise again, the world rises again, and is renewed by the eternal spirit. As surely as Christianity has defined nearly everything we might all “Western Civilization” today, it is worth reflecting on as the week draws to a close.
Just under 2,000 years ago, almost three quarters of a million sunsets ago, a Jew named Jesus started the Passover Seder by washing the feet of his followers in an act of humility and passion. To mark this event, the newly installed Pope Francis repeated the ceremony with a group of young prisoners at a juvenile detention center in Rome – two of whom were women. It may seem like a stunning sign of contrition from this new Pope, except that this is what we have come to expect from the Argentine Jesuit who has insisted that priests should be “shepherds who have the smell of their sheep.”
Who is Francis? Why does it matter? As we learned from the last two Popes, these two questions are closely intertwined because the office is made by the man who holds it – for better or worse. As we head into Easter it is good to have a closer understanding of this man and why he might make a big difference in faith – both personally and for the institution we know as the Catholic Church.