I just finished watching on EWTN the first Mass of Pope Francis with the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. It was a Mass for the Church, seeking God's blessing and guidance on the entire Church as she continues her journey through life.
I was struck again by Pope Francis' quiet simplicity and prayerful holiness. I was also struck with the impression that he does not seem comfortable in the formality of papal liturgies.
I was impressed that for his homily he did not preach from a seated position on the chair, but rather walked over to the ambo (the pulpit) and preached from there. The commentator was quick to note that the throne or cathedra was not in the Sistine Chapel, but in reality any chair the Pope preaches from is a cathedra. He also did not read his homily but had the gift to speak from the heart (whether his text was prepared or not) with eye contact, quiet gestures and a hint of a smile on occasion. The poor man will be scrutinized without ceasing!
His message was great as well. He spoke of our life as being a journey (my favorite theme). He said that in this journey we move forward with anticipation and joy, and need to renew ourselves along the way. At one point he gave an example of a child at the beach building a sandcastle. These structures can be simple or very elaborate, but they are destined to disintegrate with the waves that strike them since they are built upon sand. The Church is built upon the "rock" of Peter, the soundness of truth, the Word of God, the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As long as our structure is established on that solid foundation, we will survive and prosper.
The world speculates on how he will reform the Church. People and groups and polls express their desire for the Church to change, in the way we do things, in the things that we believe, and in our very essence. The how of what we do can be reformed but who we are as Church, the basic teachings and beliefs given to us as a sacred trust, cannot be adapted to the desires of age or the opinions of the pollsters. The Church and the Vicar of Christ on Earth are meant to be Good Shepherds who guide the sheep to where the Lord leads with a deep and abiding love.
Pray for Pope Francis in his role as Vicar of Christ on Earth. May he inspire us, call us back to the simplicity of the Gospel, and lead us to a holiness of life.