On his visit to the United States, Pope Francis invited us to be small and vulnerable. This became vividly clear to me as I stood in the “unticketed” throng celebrating and praying with the #PopeinPhilly. I felt so honored to be part of a church family with a father who leads us with real humility. Think of how Pope Francis spent his week. Some of what he did had to be grand and stately as the leader of millions Catholics. He spoke truth to persons of power in Washington and New York. He mourned the heroic loss of life at Ground Zero, reminding everyone that evil never has the last word. And he offered mass with a multitude in downtown Philiadelphia.
But significantly, in his Sunday homily he said, “Faith shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures.” He walked his talk over the weekend in a captivating way. Pope Francis is a living parable. He showed us that works of mercy are the happy fruit of genuine faith. He stopped more than 14 times on his way to a big event to kiss tiny children. He reminded us to be good to our grandparents. His face beamed as he embraced a strangely shaped young man confined to a wheelchair. He showed appreciation to priests, seminarians and cloistered nuns. He prayed with and for people from all over the world at daily masses. He sat with inmates in a prison and called them his brothers and sisters. He had lunch with some homeless people. And he laughed, smiled and listened to people tell stories at a gigantic family reunion.
People notice that Pope Francis challenges the status quo in all directions. It seems his deep concern for average Americans is not about what we have done, but what we fail to do. Our sins of omission. How do we spend our “busy” weekends? His little gestures are all things you don’t have to be a Pope to do. Can we plan more of these moments into our lives?
As a mom and children’s author, I am always wanting to come up with creative ways to inspire child-like faith in children and adults. In an effort to help share the JOY of our Pope’s visit to the USA, I even brought @MyEasterBunny to Philly with me and tweeted either sweet or silly captioned pictures of the events from the furry bunny’s perspective. However, I think my bunny is standing alongside of Pope Francis pointing a gentle paw at me. Perhaps at us. Consider that bunnies are by nature… full of warmth but are also vulnerable.
Through each small gesture of kindness, our Holy Father demonstrated that loving faith is a product of willing vulnerability. We have to step out of what is convenient and comfortable to hug someone old or crooked, to make time for daily prayer and Mass, to visit a prisoner or to dine with a homeless stranger. God needs me, needs us, to share our warmth in more intentionally vulnerable ways. Pope Francis’ actions during his visit, like Christ’s actions in His life, show us how to cultivate love and Faith in our families and in our world. Stories, sermons and lessons, videos, tweets and even inspirational cute bunny photos can prime the pump, but actions of face to face generosity are how we experience the true JOY of living our Faith! Pope Francis came to the USA personally to show us how.
As the co-author of Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day, with the little bunny who becomes the “Easter Bunny” and brings candy on Easter because the love of Jesus is so SWEET, I hope Pope Francis (who is known for his sweet tooth) doesn’t mind me thinking of him as my Papa (Bunny) when I see the hashtag: #PopeisHOPe. I know he longs for us to fill our world with the sweet love of Jesus. Perhaps we can start by filling our weekends with little gestures of holiness like he did during his visit.