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Pastry Shop Christians

During his historic trip to Assisi, Pope Francis visited the hall in the Bishop's residence in which Saint Francis stripped himself of his clothes and renounced his earthly birthright. Seemingly no previous Pope had ever visited the place.

Pope Francis remarked that there had been rumors in the Italian press that bishops, cardinals, perhaps the pope himself would in a dramatic gesture engage in a communal stripping off of robes. Reminding that the Church is all the baptized, he said all must imitate Christ who stripped himself to become a servant of all, even to accepting the Cross. And, if we would be Christians, we must follow Jesus on his Way, there is no other Way.

Then the Pope said: "But some will object: can't we have a Christianity that is a little more human – without the cross, without Jesus, without stripping away of self?" And the Pope replies; "In this way we would become pastry shop Christians, luscious cakes, sweet dainties. Delectable, but not real Christians. We need to strip away that worldliness which leads to vanity, arrogance, pride."

And he made it clear he was not speaking only of the Curia.

The Italian is here.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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I think it's fantastic to hear a pope saying all of these simply Christian things.  As a friend asked me recently, "Doesn't it make you feel very old?  To have lived so long to see this?"   It keeps bringin my mind back to this, which Hannah Arendt wrote about Pope John many years ago.

But all that said--Can't we have that Church he describes, and have zeppole?  Please, take my vanity, my arrogance, my pride.  But leave the cannoli!


methinks (Shakespeare on PBS tonight!), you are confounding Francesco with Giuseppe. It's the latter who is fond of zeppole. At least that's the Bronx tradition.


you may be relieved to hear that in his talk with the cloistered Sisters today, the Pope made reference to Saint Teresa of Avila. It seems a nun was bombarding Teresa with complaints. The Saint's  solution was to tell the cook to fix her a steak: "Quando a lei veniva una suora, oh, con queste cose… diceva alla cuoca: “dalle una bistecca!”.

I guess it's butchers "si," pastry chefs "no."

I recall a story about the Jesuits finding relief in a photo of Pope John with a cigarette after a reproval about smoking from Pius. I find some similar relief in this pope's gustatory Gospel, carnivore that I am.

Still, we're going to need a ruling on the Eastertime pizza rustica. Does a meat pie pass muster???

The seemingly impromptu comments and teachings are going to be more effective than many people think. I think, primarily, because they address people's lifestyle and are less concerned with intellectual kinds of didactic presentations of the life of faith. Not that more didactic presentations (e.g. encyclicals, etc.) are not important but I don't think they are what is called for in this age of instant communication. Plus adddressing lifestyle is the most direct, immediate and tangible thing that people actually see and it is the most immediate area that they can actually address is a concrete way.

As Simone Weil said:

“We are living in times which have no precedent, and in our present situation  universality, which could formerly be implicit, has to be fully explicit. It has to permeate our language and the whole of our way of life...Today it is not nearly enough merely to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent.A new type of sanctity is indeed a fresh spring, an invention. If all is kept in  proportion and if the order of each thing is preserved, it is almost equivalent to a new revelation of the universe and of human destiny. It is the exposure of a large portion of truth and beauty hitherto concealed under a thick layer of dust. More genius is needed than was needed by Archimedes to invent mechanics and physics. A new saintliness is a still more marvellous invention."


Five more years of Francisisms will thoroughly change the Church.and at a healthy 81,  I might live to see it. 

"At a healthy 81, I might live to see it."

Speriamo bene!

Is there an overlap between pastry shop Christians and cafeteria Catholics?

Mark ... only prudentially so.

The mental image of stripped-down old-man hierarchs is little bit too much to take ... I think I just threw-up in my mouth.

I lived for a couple years in the Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx.  The neighborhood's working class Italians would have loved Papa Francesco.  He speaks their language.

I guess that Francesco is really taking this Franciscan thing seriously.  That has got to make us all uncomfortable with our prejudices and life styles.  

Reminds me of what my sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, always would warn us:  "Christianity is not for sissies."

I trust your untimely spasm did not spoil "il buon gusto di Arthur Avenue!"

Darn, I was so much more relaxed when his words, filtered through my needs, allowed me to believe, if only briefly, he had the reins now and all was moving in the best of directions.  Come to think on it, I suspect that's what I still believe from time to time.

@ Yah know, Roberto:  If I close my eyes, I can still smell the comforting aroma of bread-baking at Agostino's early in morning as I walked to work through the neighborhood.

Does the saintly Nancy Liguori, the chain-smoking grandma with the truck-driver mouth, still feed the homeless everyday from her own kitchen?  Does Frankie DeLuca still hang-out on the side-walk, constantly combing and adjusting his greased-up coif, surrounded by drooling little girls?  Do they still have the Arthur Avenue market with its fresh produce, butchers and live poultry market?

Yah know, you can take da boy outta da Bronx, but you can't take da Bronx outta da boy! 

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