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Pope Francis – Can You Hear Me Now?

Imagine Pope Francis saying “Can you hear me now?”

For more than a decade, it was hard to escape the wireless commercial, “Can You Hear Me Now?” It recently dawned on me that Pope Francis is repeatedly asking a question with his words… and actions. “Do you have the smell of the sheep?”

The first time he caught our attention with the image of “the smell of the sheep” was a mere two weeks after he became Pope in 2013. He told the priests of the world they should “be shepherds with the smell of sheep.” A powerful image (no pun intended)!

It was not to be the only time he used the image or those like it since then. He has not stopped asking.
He has challenged

  • Priests
  • Bishops
  • Theologians
  • Married people
  • Missionaries
  • Through encyclicals such as Evangelii Gaudium (45) and Amoris Laetitia  (268)
  • And most recently,.. Cardinals

I confess to being caught by the image… and similar images he uses, such as “mud on the shoes.”

Keep in mind, 2013 was not the first time he used the images of “smell of the sheep” and “mud on shoes”. Mark Shriver, in his excellent biography of Francis, writes,

“But he looked at the shoes of some of the (young Jesuit) priests and he said, ‘Today you haven’t done anything.’ It had rained and it was muddy, and they had nothing on their shoes, they were shiny.” “He told them they returned without the smell of sheep…”

Vincentian Resonance

Vincent had his own way of saying it. “Let us love God, brothers, let us love God, but let it be with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows”

“Workers”, “apostolic men,” are the words that Vincent used when referring to those who were privileged to be called in order to cooperate in extending the mission of Christ. You are “to go, not just to one parish, not just to one diocese, but all over the world” (CCD:XII:215).

As Vincent contemplated the situation of the Church in Europe he insisted on the Church’s need for “workers” to continue the mission of Jesus Christ, for true Apostles. His language reflects the language and situations of the day.

Alas! the Church has enough solitaries … and too many useless ones, and even more who tear her apart. Her great need is evangelical men who work to purge, enlighten, and unite her to her Divine Spouse … to go and proclaim Jesus Christ to the poor people (CCD:III:204-205).

The greatest blessing of the Vincentian Family is to be able to minister as Jesus ministered.

Oh! What a happiness for you to work at doing what He did! He came to bring the good news to the poor, and that is your lot and your occupation, too. If our perfection lies in charity, as is certain, there is none greater than to give oneself to save souls and to sacrifice oneself for them as Jesus Christ did. This is what you are called to do (CCD:VII:356).

He also believed that it was among them, among those poor people, that true religion and a living faith are preserved (CCD:XI:190)

Messieurs, true religion is found among the poor. God enriches them with a lively faith; they believe, they touch, they taste the words of life. … let’s add that everyone loves simple, candid people, who don’t use subtleties or tricks, who are straightforward and speak sincerely, with the result that whatever they say comes from their heart (CCD:XII:142).

Of course, there is also Frederic Ozanam… “The priests must give up their little bourgeois parishes: their flocks are an elite in the midst of a vast population that they do not know….” (Letter of Frederic Ozanam to Alphonse Ozanam, March 6, 1848).

Echoes in us?

It is is not complicated. It is actually quite simple.

J. Patrick Murphy observes in “Mr. Vincent..” that Vincent lived with the nobility (the De Gondls) but ate with the servants.

He suggests this lesson for us. Humility and simplicity always work well with people.

How about each of us?

  • When was the last time I thought of going on mission outside my comfort zone?
  • What elements of safety might I be holding onto?
  • Do I really understand what Jesus did when he washed the feet of his followers?

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