By Janet Hauter February 18, 2016
Francis is changing the way we see our Church. This reminds me of the story of Claude Monet because I see a parallel between Monet’s struggles with acceptance by the artistic community for his work and the faithful’s difficulty of complying with rules that don’t match the “signs of the times” in our Church. Monet did not comply with the “formulas” that artists were expected to follow. Others gained recognition and a lucrative income. By following but Monet tried to use his God-given talents by seeing the world through another lens.
Monet, like Francis, looked at the world, particularly the pond on his property, and saw what others did not see. He and Francis are motivated by “the light”; Monet plays with light to enhance beauty that others don’t see; it’s a beauty that gives the observer an experience of a landscape. Francis describes the world he sees in Laudato Si and is guided by “the light” in life for him, that light is Jesus Christ. Francis sees the world differently because of Jesus’ message of love and how Francis has chosen to model it as The New Evangelization.
Monet, then in his mid-70s, looked at his pond as he often did and began to see enchanting images, colors and beauty that he never saw before. It was so powerful for him that he was compelled to migrate from painting on normal-sized canvasses to wall-sized renderings to offer “the illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore”. This is also a prototype of Francis who faces incredible demands to make needed changes or not; to hurry to implement new church teaching interpretations or keep the status quo. Both Monet and Francis had a vision to see their reality differently. Monet knew he had to work fast because he was going blind. Francis just turned 79 and is begging us all to help him. We won’t have him forever.
Many view Francis as a “rock star” and they watch and wait to see what wonderous deeds lay ahead. Others claim to not understand what Francis is calling us to. We all look to Francis to lead the transformation parade and we’ll follow. I believe Francis is calling us all to change the way we see ourselves, as Church. These chaotic times are calling each of us to change, to engage. All around us there are ways to reach out and help others. Begin small—in your own home, community, diocese but the first step is to look in the mirror, assess the gifts we have been given, like Monet and Francis, and step out in faith to help another.
Now THAT is a message for the “Wisdom generation, the Vatican II groupies” to help Francis “rebuild My Church”, the same invitation offered to St. Francis, long ago. Both Monet and Francis in their 70s were called to look at their reality in a different way and do something about it. That’s what we are asking of you.
With the Curia bucking every step Francis takes, he needs us more now than ever before. Francis cannot pull rabbits out of a hat. There are all sorts of initiatives we could be doing locally, within our own homes, communities and dioceses. We have added a new “Best Local Practices” onto our website where we are asking Catholics to offer their local innovations to share. We are doing this to inspire others to step out in faith and begin to make grassroots changes that reflect a lived faith. We invite you to share your actionable ideas as well as a resource to others.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we ask that you look at Church differently and get engaged locally!