To Be Understood As To Understand

O Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
– Prayer of St Francis, Catholic Hymn

As someone who is socially progressive, I knew that there would be a lot that any new Pope and I wouldn’t agree about. I am a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights, I am pro-choice, and I am a feminist. Despite all of this, thus far I am as pleased with Pope Francis as I could be. Because despite how many of my progressive values Pope Francis and I disagree about, Pope Francis is also an interfaith advocate. Just like his namesake, St Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis knows that our goal is not so much to be understood as to understand.

On his first meeting with the press this weekend, the Pope, when it was time to give a blessing, said: “Given that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I give this blessing from my heart, in silence, to each one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God,”

In addition, in his former post as Cardinal of Argentina, Pope Francis worked closely with the local Jewish community and sponsored interfaith prayers after Pope Benedict XVI’s offensive remarks against Muslims in 2006.

From invitations to engage with Muslims like his namesake, to the first appearance at a Papal inauguration by Bartholomew I, the Orthodox Patriarch, as well as attendance by groups of Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain leadership, Pope Francis has a true calling to lead by example as our interfaith Pope.

Pope Francis’ own calling to serve the poor is the perfect avenue for this interfaith communion. Organizations like Interfaith Youth Core, World Faith, and others have shown us that through service to our fellow humans we can work together in spite of our differences, and learn to coexist on earth. This is why in spite of how much Pope Francis and I differ, I know that I like him. We have found our common ground in a calling towards interfaith dialogue, service to the “least of these” (however we may define them), and to strive to follow the path of St. Francis the best that we can.

I think we succumb as victims of attitudes that don’t permit us to have dialogue:
arrogance, not knowing how to listen, hostility in our speech, attacking the messenger and so many others.
Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect toward the other person, from a conviction that the other has something good to say.

Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, in conversation with Abraham Skora,
a professor of the Bible and Rabbinical literature at Jewish Theological Seminary
On Heaven and Earth (2010)

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One thought on “To Be Understood As To Understand

  1. Nicole, thank you for your beautiful reflection. Last Sunday, my dear old friends and I visited Saint Francis in San Francisco. A beautiful light was showering the city’s Grace Cathedral with pearls of rainbow through its majestic stained glass windows. We visited the Interfaith AIDS Memorial Chapel with a bronze and white-gold triptych altarpiece entitled “The Life of Christ”, the last work of Keith Haring completed just weeks before his own death from AIDS, and walked the Labyrinth with our aspirations for peace and wellbeing of all.
    Looking at a beautiful statue of Saint Francis by Beniamino Bufano, I remember how I fell in love with Saint Francis long time ago, when I first watched Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Franko Zeffirelli, and then through reading about him in several books and making friends with many peacemakers who follow in his footsteps. I do hope that the new Pope will live up to the name of Francis of Assisi, open himself up to a more compassionate world, and evolve towards equality and love for all, just like our brother Francis would.

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