These are the times that try men’s souls. Our Lady has been telling us since Fatima or even earlier that the Church is going to experience a time of confusion. If they delivered Our Lord to the Cross, we simple servants are not going to be exempted from our Calvary.

I do not know what Pope Francis is trying to achieve. I was telling a friend today that I don’t want to go back to the kind of Church that persecuted Padre Pio or Fr Leonardo Castellani (find out about him, Argentine Jesuit) but I don’t want the church of Karl Rahner, Hans Küng, or Edward Schillebeeckx either. Somewhere in the middle there is firm ground but it won’t be easy to find.

Here in Buenos Aires we have seen Padre Bergoglio come out of a van any freezing night at 3 a.m. to set up a table with hot soup and coffee for the prostitutes (female, male and in-between) of Flores, the neighborhood where he was born. Not a word of reproach or a sermon, just a cup of hot soup, a smile.

Then someone approaches him and whispers something in his ear, he walks aside and hears her confession, dries a torrent of tears, whispers something which the penitent assents to, sobbing. I know it is bizarre to even imagine a transvestite confessing and leaving the improvised confessional with a mix of tears and mascara running down the face. Same thing about mini-skirted ladies of the road. But Someone told us that angels rejoice when something like that happens no matter how bizarre it may look here on earth. The absolution of the good thief on Calvary was no model of sacramental propriety either, but it worked.

I am quite uncomfortable with the idea of ceasing to be the loud and clear moral referent about abortion, militant homosexuality, and stuff like that. Is this a case of catching more souls with honey instead of vinegar? I hope so. I still think of the mix of stern condemnation and tender mercy that Our Lord displayed in His Perfection when He walked this sad and dusty planet. Are we able to get even close to that? All I hope is that He is in His mercy mood when I finally meet Him. I also know that depends on how I conduct myself. For He told me that I am going to get what I dished out in this life.

I envy the Pope’s fortitude. He knows he is approaching the enemy’s front lines by doing what he’s doing. He is risking crucifixion, but if souls are saved that way without compromising the truth … then the objective has been achieved.

Francis likes to read Jorge Luis Borges, a gentle and very misunderstood soul who died in voluntary exile in Switzerland. Borges chose the following inscription for his grave: And ne forhtedon na. It is Old English for “be not afraid,” or, “go forth unafraid,” quoted fromThe Battle of Maldon, a poem dating back, I believe, to the 10th century.

We must go forth. Be not afraid. Go forth, anyway.

The Battle of Maldon (fragment)

ða þær Byrhtnoð ongan beornas trymian,
rad and rædde, rincum tæhte
hu hi sceoldon standan and þone stede healdan,
and bæd þæt hyra randas rihte heoldon
fæste mid folman, and ne forhtedon na.
þa he hæfde þæt folc fægere getrymmed,
he lihte þa mid leodon þær him leofost wæs,
þær he his heorðwerod holdost wiste.

Then Byrhtnoth began to array men there,
rode and gave counsel, taught warriors
how they must stand and that stead hold,
bade them their round-shields rightly hold
fast with hands, not at all frightened.
When he had fairly arrayed that folk,
he dismounted among them where it most pleased him,
where he knew his hearth-band most loyal.

Published 20 September 2013.