By Father Kevin Storey, CSB
“The influence of an educator, especially for young people, depends more on what he is as a person and the way he lives than what he says.”
– Pope Francis
We all intuitively seem to know this to be true as we can recall many fine teachers who inspired us, challenged us or consoled us, without remembering the content of the subject that they taught us. While many of Pope Francis’ homilies during Mass and speeches to various assemblies will be scrutinized and analyzed throughout this first visit to America, perhaps more important for our students will be the person of Pope Francis himself.
As I was watching Pope Francis land on American soil and be greeted by various national dignitaries, the image that struck me was the motorcade leaving Andrews Air Force Base. There were about 8 giant black SUV’s in front, another 8 at the back, and in the middle was this small black four-door sedan holding the person responsible for all this clamor.
While Pope Francis has received both praise and criticism for his teachings on mercy, the environment and education, we sense that there is an authenticity about his actions that speak far louder than his words. He chooses to visit prisoners, people in complicated relationships, single mothers, the homeless and refugees. He chooses to live in a hostel in Rome with hundreds of other people, when more private, spacious and affluent accommodations are available at the Vatican. When he arrived in Washington he chose to travel in a small black sedan with three other passengers while everybody else in the motorcade had more luxurious arrangements.
It is a great reminder for all of us who strive for goodness, discipline and knowledge that the quiet of our class preparation might be more significant than the eloquence of our class presentation, the tutoring of a weaker student may be more impactful than the A+ we achieve by our own intelligence, and the authentic desire to live today as a better Christian impacts the people around us without us knowing how or why. Pope Francis will be teaching us throughout his time on American soil – sometimes he will even be speaking.
Watch Pope Francis address Congress: