Field Hospital Therapies

A year ago, on this feast of his namesake, Pope Francis made a memorable voyage to Assisi. Among his many addresses and homilies, here's an excerpt from one delivered in the Cathedral of San Rufino to clergy, religious, and members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council. As it happened, they were preparing for a diocesan Synod. The Pope said in part:

But the most important thing is to walk together by working together, by helping one another, by asking forgiveness, by acknowledging one's mistakes and asking for forgiveness, and also by accepting the apologies of others by forgiving — how important this is! Sometimes I think of married people who separate after many years. “Oh … no, we didn't understand each other, we drifted apart”. Perhaps at times they didn't know how to ask for forgiveness at the right time. Perhaps at times they did not know how to forgive. And I always give this advice to newly weds: “Argue as much as you like. If the plates fly, let them! But never end the day without making peace! Never!” And if married people learn to say: “excuse me, I was tired”, or even a little gesture, this is peace. Then carry on with life the next day. This is a beautiful secret, and it prevents these painful separations. It is important to walk in unity, without running ahead, without nostalgia for the past. And while you walk you talk, you get to know one another, you tell one other about yourself, you grow as a family. Here let us ask ourselves: how do we walk? How does our diocese walk? Does it together? And what am I doing so that it may truly walk in unity? I do not wish to enter into a discussion here about gossip, but you know that gossip always divides.

I think the papal prescriptions pertain to the Synod on the Family that opens tomorrow. I don't necessarily endorse throwing plates in the Aula, but walking and working together, arguing, yet listening patiently to the other, not quick to launch accusations of "fundamentalism" or "ideology" like poisoned darts. Forgiving when necessary, and asking forgiveness.

As for gossiping -- a particular bête noir for this Pope. Perhaps the Swiss Guard could provide tubs of the disinfectant those exposed to the ebola virus use to wash hands and shoes, as the Synod members enter the Hall. Anti-gossip disinfectant. Could it also be applied via the web, perhaps like dewfall from the Cloud? That would be another Francis first!

In the spirit of Saint Francis, I would love to see a photo of Kasper and Burke exchanging the kiss of peace -- provided it did not last unduly long.

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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