“The world did not tire of the church’s ideal, but only has got tired because of its reality. The Monasteries were criticized not for the chastity of monks, but for the un-chastity of monks. Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but because of the arrogance of Christians. Certainly, if the Church has failed it was largely through the Churchmen.” (G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World)
We are living in an era where the institutions (be it political, religious, educational) are being questioned. Long gone is the time when people looked at these institutions with reverence and submissiveness. If anyone has got a doubt that this is not the case, I would suggest thinking about the state of the Italian Politics with Beppe Grillo’s Cinque Stelle obtaining 25% of the national vote or watching Nigel Farage, a Member of the European Parliament calling the President of the EU a ‘Damp Rag’ (more than 4 million views in total!). The Church is not an exception and Pope Benedict XVI in particular was continuously attacked during his pontificate for the sins that the ‘men of church’ have committed.
With seemingly the fall of the institutions, it is only natural that people search for figures who set an example, who have achieved magnificent feats or whose presence make others ask questions about oneself. A very interesting phenomenon is the public opinion of Pope Francis. I was watching BBC News when he got elected, and as it was known that Cardinal Bergoglio would be the next Pope the BBC Reporter said: “My goodness, this Cardinal cooked his own food, went to work by bus, lived in a poor flat and was very close to the people.” This Pope has not said anything new or different from what Pope Benedict said, yet a quote of his appears on my Facebook news feed every day.
What is the reason behind this? I don’t know the reason and I certainly don’t have the time to carry out a study. However one reason might be that people find this Pope more credible and maybe even more coherent with what he preaches! I have no doubt that Pope Benedict was a coherent person, a good Christian and a good Pope. Yet some mistakenly think otherwise. The call for Christians today is to be persons who really believe in what the claim to believe in and to act accordingly. It is very sad talking to someone who goes to Sunday Mass just to be at peace with his or her conscience. It is sad indeed talking to a Christian who does not even ask or try to understand what he or she truly believes in. After all, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI emphasised the importance of both Faith and Reason in one’s relationship with God.
The more I come in contact with different people, especially youths the more I become impressed with these ‘normal people’ who by their humble lives evoke a smile and awaken hope to those around them. I call these people ‘The saints of the 21st century’. They certainly aren’t noticed as the ‘bad guys’ but they are without doubt the majority. This is what the Church needs. This is what actually the Church must be – People who set an example, sinners who deep down are good, Christians who are profound, Christians who have a relationship with God, Christians who are profoundly spiritual, Christians who are profoundly human, Christians who believe in what they say. This is the call of Christians today!