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A “huh” moment

News Writer | Monday, October 7, 2013

After reading Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts Jr.’s recent column in The Miami Herald about Pope Francis and the controversy his actions and statements have caused, I find this a very relevant topic as a student of a Catholic college, but even more as just a human being.
Pope Francis has recognized the dignity in every human life and urges others to do the same. He has washed and kissed the feet of prisoners, women and non-Christians. He also has insisted on carrying his own bags and cooking his own dinner. Such relatable human tasks have caused people to awe at his simplicity and to wonder why a figure with so much authority would bother with the seemingly mundane tasks of everyday life.
Certainly, washing people’s feet isn’t an everyday task, but I think the point is to recognize Francis as a normal human being. Maybe our perception of “holier than thou” comes not from the fact that he is the head of the Catholic Church, but rather from the fact that he is humbling himself before others. Stating that he is a sinner, too, has surprised people. Why? Aren’t these things all a part of being a Christian? These are issues that Pitts’ column brings up, and I think it is a very interesting point.
We are called to serve others, to live simple lives and to love our neighbors. Yet while Pope Francis is doing these things, he is gaining a lot of media coverage. And while a lot of media sources have focused on the Pope’s actions, it’s not necessarily his actions that we should consider, but rather our own reactions. Are we surprised that someone so esteemed can relate to ordinary people? I think that reaction says a lot about our expectations of authority figures, especially in the Catholic Church. I’m not exactly sure what it says, but it’s what my professor of communication studies, Dr. Helen Ho, would call a “‘huh’ moment.” We sit and think, “huh?” and then wonder why our perception of Christianity causes us to hold authority figures within the Church to a different standard than we hold other leaders.
Saint Mary’s hosted a panel discussion Monday about Pope Francis’ papacy and how his actions and views affect what it means to be Catholic. The panel included two Saint Mary’s students and two faculty members. Hopefully, this discussion helped members of our community better understand the Pope’s vision for the Church and why his actions have caused controversy. So, let’s have a “‘huh’ moment” and think about Pope Francis as a human being.

Contact Haleigh Ehmsen at
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    The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.