“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
[How odd, I think, that the first time I ever see these words of Mother Teresa I see them on the wall of an Amish restaurant, right alongside the dessert room. Hey, that’s one of ours! She’s Catholic. If I remember correctly, the Girls Scouts have a saying, “Always leave the place better than you found it.” Mother Teresa makes it bigger: let every person leave you better and happier. May they – and you – be happier and better for your having met.]
Do not let my lying foes
rejoice over me.
Do not let those who hate me unjustly
wink eyes at each other.
[And the devil laughs. When we fall back into those old sins, when we seek satisfaction and pleasure and relief and escape and distraction in those old ways, and when we find that once again the hope-for benefit is short-lived, that we have short-circuited our growth once again, and that we feel worse than we did before, for giving in once again to seductive, additive and nonproductive ways, the devil winks at us, smirks and laughs. They didn’t work – again. He tricked us once again.]
“You know this day is different than my previous days,” Benedict said in a soft, German-accented Italian. “I will simply be a pilgrim on the last stop of my pilgrimage on this earth.” He then uttered the last words of his papacy: “Thank you and good night.”
[Now that is the way to retire.]
“Pope Francis’ grandmother’s reaction [to his entering the seminary] pleased him most. She told him that if God called him, it was a blessing. But, crucially, she added, ‘Please, don’t forget that the doors of the house are always open, and nobody is going to criticize you if you decide to come back.’”
[Every time my dad drove me back to the seminary he told, “You always have your room at home.” Dad told me later that, every time he and mom pulled away from the seminary, mom cried all the way home. He had to take her out for supper to get her to stop.]
“While in seminary, he once was ‘dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle’s wedding … I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance . . . and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while. I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing. I was still free because I was a seminarian, so I could have gone back home and that was it.'”
[You gotta love Pope Francis. As I walked up the aisle at my diaconate ordination with its pledge to celibacy, there was a young blond woman, in the end seat, on the right, one third of the way from the back. I remember seeing her and asking myself, “Rob, do you know what in the world are you doing?” I thought I knew. I found out that I didn’t exactly know. But apparently God knew for me. It has been 38+ years. I love our Francis for his honesty and transparency.]
“In the end, he tapped his desire to be a missionary in his work at home. In 2000, he preached in a homily to catechists, ‘Are we going to stay home? Are we going to stay in the parish, locked up? . . . Catechists, to the streets! Go spread the catechism, go search, go knock on doors. Go knock on hearts!'”
[Francis knew great physical pain, the removal of a lung and the dashing of his dream to be a foreign missionary. But he did not give up – and he did not give up his missionary spirit. We are all winning because of what he lost.]