Posts Tagged ‘Pope Francis’

Il Va’ … Para La Molienda

May 27, 2017

So, this guy in a white suit goes to the steel mill on a Saturday morning, and doesn’t get even a speck of soot on his smock.  But, thinking of some recent visitors to his home, he has something to say about getting the job done:

lost chains

Speaking to some 3,500 industrial workers at the ILVA steel factory in Genoa, many in overalls or hard hats, Francis distinguished between good entrepreneurs, who “share the labors of workers and share the joys of work” to create something together, and speculators who are not bothered when they fire workers in a search for profit.

“The speculator doesn’t love his business, doesn’t love the workers, but only sees the business and workers as a means to make profit.  One sickness of the economy is the gradual transformation of entrepreneurs into speculators,” the pontiff said.

Evoking il soffitto di Cappella Sistema


After the visit at the mill, Francis met with bishops, priests and nuns at the Cathedral of San Lorenzo.  Later he planned to meet with refugees, prisoners, poor and homeless people.

Ay! La Culebra!


Bearing the Cross

October 19, 2016

Last week a minor news item prompted me to indulge (briefly) in a bit of structured reflection that surpassed mere musing.  And I suspect that this was precisely the result intended by the particular newsmaker in question.

Pope Francis on Wednesday reminded Catholics of the importance of putting up with annoying people as a spiritual work of mercy. “Show patience with troublesome people,” the pope said during a general audience at the Vatican.

“Troublesome people exist.  Be patient with them.  This [forbearance] may seem unimportant … but it contains a sentiment of deep charity. These are gestures of mercy, and what is done to one man is also done to Jesus,” Francis added.


I had been previously unaware that there are also six additional “spiritual works of mercy” expected of the faithful in their daily lives.  Musta never got the memo:

  • counsel the doubtful
  • instruct the ignorant
  • admonish sinners
  • forgive offenses willingly
  • comfort the afflicted
  • pray for the living and the dead

Here at Waking the Dragon we think we do a pretty good job with the first three items on this list: counseling, instructing and admonishing (although not necessarily in that order).  But when it comes to dealing with annoyances, Pope Francis and I probably have different ideas about who might actually qualify as a “troublesome person.”  He might be thinking of the daily throngs of tourists who crowd into the Vatican, hoping to bask in the reflected glory of the papal presence or yearning for a literal touch of the divine.  For me, troublesome people are the tireless complainers we often encounter in life, those who view the minor irritations of daily existence as unsupportable burdens that they alone are forced to shoulder.  Contrary to what Donald Trump would have you believe, they’re not mostly women.

That’s where the structured reflection comes in.  Many years ago, during a conversation with my insurance agent (I wasn’t the one complaining), I’d had a flash of insight.  In retrospect, maybe it’s blindingly obvious, but at the time it was new to me.  A complaint –or even a rant– often isn’t just an expression of irritation at particular circumstances or life experiences.  Instead, it is an indirect admission that the speaker feels a lack of personal agency or social power, and that this powerlessness is emotionally painful.  [Pause for Reader’s own reflection on this point.]

In many cases, the complaint is also a coded message communicating the anguished cry, “Nobody Loves Me!”.  It is a plea for love, endlessly ignored.  This, above all else, is the consummate tragedy of human existence.  In cases such as these, it’s clear that Spiritual Work of Mercy #1 (patience with troublesome people) isn’t enough.  Spiritual Work of Mercy #6 (comfort the afflicted) is definitely called for, and Spiritual Work of Mercy #7 (prayer for the living) might be an additional option chosen by those who believe in its actual efficacy.

So, here’s some career counsel for corporate employees in customer service departments everywhere:  at the very least, exhibit genuine patience with troublesome people … and truly comfort the afflicted.

Wait, There’s More

But my recent reflection on the topic of “troublesome people” also took note of a more pernicious specimen of humanity than the Category I victim of circumstance.  This is, of course, the other principal type of complainer: the supremely entitled person whose sense of self-importance becomes affronted when his whims are not immediately granted the precedence and top priority he feels they clearly require.  This guy (usually but not always a man) may employ bluster, “loud-talking” and intimidation at the time of the original “offense,” but also later reenacts his outrage and indignation in front of a third-party audience that he expects will validate his claims.  Indeed, from his point of view, they self-evidently should agree.

It’s much more difficult to have patience with the Category II complainer –and thus perhaps that much more meritorious in the eyes of heaven.  Let’s hope so anyway.  But mere patience won’t always be enough: it may be necessary to add some Spiritual Work of Mercy #3 (instruction of the ignorant) to the mix by gently pointing out that there are other things in this world beyond his personal priorities.  If that doesn’t work, I recommend a light cudgeling with a four-foot length of straight-grain 2×2 Douglas Fir.  Arms, legs and back only –no head shots!  Nothing to break any bones, just a few bruises to make a lasting impression.


Sorry, that was my inner mobster speaking out of turn.  Francis wouldn’t approve.  Forgive me Papa Francesco, I have digressed.  Here’s what I should have said, the whole point of this post: violence deployed in anger is a lazy expedient that gets rapid –but ephemeral– results.  The only reliable methods for effecting durable change in the world are tiny gestures, incrementally accumulated through tedious repetition.  Minor acts of kindness and mercy, one person at a time.  Start with yourself, and go from there.  You can thank me later.

Render Unto Caesar

March 11, 2015

In terms of sheer notoriety within the national culture, Italy’s Rebibbia prison is roughly the equivalent of Sing Sing or San Quentin penitentiaries in the United States.  Lacking the exotic locale of Alcatraz or Devil’s Island, Rebibbia has to make do with a sordid history that extends back to the days of Mussolini, and boasts (if that’s the right word) many of Italy’s most dangerous criminals and gangsters among its inmates.  From a bureaucratic point of view, its principal advantage as an icon of Italian judicial punishment lies in the fact that the town of Rebibbia is a suburb of Rome, and has metro service into the heart of the capital. Thus, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, journalists and the families of the accused can easily travel to the prison facility to attend the mafia megatrials that are occasionally staged within its secure environment.

But Rebibbia is probably best known to law-abiding citizens of Italy (and elsewhere) as the backdrop for a truly intense 2012 film by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani: Caesar Must Die.  The Taviani brothers’ film depicts the process of casting, rehearsing and staging a theatrical production of Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar‘ organized by the prison’s performing arts program.  The actors are inmates. The set is the prison itself.  The storyline is the stuff of legend as well as history.  Everyone knows the ending — or thinks they do.  This is a film you definitely have to see: you’ll never think of Shakespeare, Italy, or Rome the same way again.


So why the mention of Rebibbia at this particular time?

Pope Francis will travel to Rome’s Rebibbia prison on Holy Thursday (April 2) to meet inmates and celebrate the “Coena Domini” Mass, which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. As part of the ceremony, he will wash male and female inmates’ feet, [because] Holy Thursday Mass marks the commandment of love, demonstrated when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.

The gesture of washing disciples’ feet was also presented in the New Testament as a demonstration of humility and an acknowledgement of our common humanity marked by equality before God.  That part of the message, at least, is worth bearing in mind.

No word on whether Pope Francis has actually seen ‘Caesar Must Die‘ .. or whether he prefers the message of Rosselini’s neo-realist classic Europa ’51.


Roamin’ Holiday

August 17, 2014

Pope Francis is wrapping up his visit to Korea.  Here’s a quick recap of his core message to Northeast Asians:

  1. Please stop fighting and killing each other.
  2. Please be (much) less money-hungry and materialistic.
  3. Pseudo-Marxists needn’t fear Christians.  See points 1 & 2 above.
  4. Pray for (rather than prey upon) each other.  See points 1 & 2 above.

And now some thousand-word pictures that can relate volumes more than text alone …


Francis looks at the honor guard’s M-16s with an expression of sadness and distaste.  Park Geun-hye gloats.



Notice the kowtowing barbarian emissaries in the Chosun-dynasty screen painting directly above the Pope’s head? Despite his Italian heritage, (or perhaps because of it) he’s considered South American by South Korea’s foreign ministry functionaries.  But remember:  Francis knows that Park Geun-hye was hooking up with her boy toy –for seven hours– while the Sewol ferry capsized and sank.


Park Won-soon_Copenhagen_20140812

Why is the mayor of Seoul cycling in Copenhagen while Francis visits Korea?  So that he doesn’t have to be part of Park Geun-hye’s cynical political circus show. And perhaps for ideological reasons.