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Pope Francis celebrates a mass in Plebiscito square during his pastoral visit in Naples on March 21, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Ask A Catholic: What are your hopes for the pope’s visit?

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By Matthew Sewell

What are your hopes for the Pope’s visit to the U.S.?

catholicI have to admit, I’ve been beside myself for a couple weeks now in anticipation for Pope Francis’ first trip (in his whole life!) to the United States. It’s truly going to be historic and memorable, and as a result I have a few hopes for his visit.

I hope the grace of God flows freely.

This one may seem a little boring, and is in fact kind of a given. It’s not like God’s grace ever stops flowing. Nevertheless, all of us need more of it all of the time. Pope Francis, as the continuation of a 2,000-year-old, unbroken line of succession back to Christ himself, will have the rapt attention of an entire nation, Catholic and non-Catholic, and he’s bound to speak some very profound truths that, if we let them, can change our lives in many ways.

I hope America learns something. 

No matter what your worldview, it’s hard to argue against the life Pope Francis leads and exhorts others to take up — that of serving the poor and marginalized, being merciful, and also being disciplined in one’s own life.

This pope has a message that I think America is in desperate need of hearing. Look at almost any headline over the past several months and it’s plain to see that America is a broken nation. Everything from riots in Ferguson to 58 million aborted babies to our obsession over the Kardashians or NFL Football show how infatuated we are with ourselves, how little mercy we show to others, and how utterly undisciplined we are in terms of our moral lives. These are generalizations, to be sure, but an across-the-board improvement in all three of these areas are needed if our nation expects to survive over the long haul.

I hope America finds TRUE hope. 

The thing about the Catholic life is that it’s rarely a matter of “either/or” and almost always a matter of “both/and”. Another thing about Catholicism is that it’s a religion of paradox — A virgin gave birth to a son, God became man, give your life in order to save it, etc. Along those lines, I hope Pope Francis, in anticipation of the upcoming Year of Mercy, touches on two things: our utter sinfulness as fallen humans and the hope we have in the saving love of Jesus Christ.

The reason I think it’s important for America to hear those two things from the Holy Father is so we can become better. After all, we must first think we have something to improve upon before we can ever better ourselves. But aside from mere self-help, the message I hope Pope Francis gives would be an exhortation to hope for the life beyond this one by admitting to ourselves and to God that we are nothing before Him.

One of my favorite passages in Scripture comes from the book of Revelation, where Jesus is quoted saying,

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (3:15-16; emphasis added)

Most of all, like Jesus, I hope Pope Francis spurs us to action. And not just any action, but right action. It isn’t rocket science to see that our actions matter, for better or for worse, and that inaction is worst of all.

I hope the pope’s visit is electrifying, world-changing, and memorable for generations to come. Because he, after all, is a pope that the world won’t soon forget after he’s gone.

SpokaneFāVS will be traveling to Philadelphia to cover the Papal visit. Check out this page for full coverage.

About Matthew Sewell

Matthew Sewell, a Denver Broncos fan and amateur Chestertonian, loves golf, music, truth and good food. A lifelong Catholic, he graduated from a Catholic college (Carroll College; Helena, Mont.) but experienced a "re-version" to the faith during graduate studies at a state school (N. Arizona; Flagstaff, Ariz.). Irony is also one of his favorite things. He and his wife currently reside in Spokane, though they're Montanans at heart. He blogs at mtncatholic.com.

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