Fun facts about me: My mom’s whole family is Catholic going back centuries. It’s part of our family legacy – the Veteri Ponte (shortened to Vipond) were Catholic barons in England, and depending on who was ruling and whether they were Anglicans or Protestants, we had our land granted and taken away over and over. One of my ancestors was Queen Elizabeth I’s handmaid, and apparently she was mouthy (now you know where I get it from).
Which is all to say, Catholicism is part of my identity. I was loosely raised in the Catholic church. I stopped short of getting confirmed because I didn’t want to make a promise to a god if I didn’t know that I believed in it. Later in adulthood, when I was attending a Jesuit university, I started inching further back toward it. I took classes on Catholic history and on sacramentalism, I started reading the Bible more, I grew an affinity for Graham Greene. One of my favorite novels is still The Power and the Glory, in no small part for this very twentieth-century Catholic point of view, which I still think is a beautiful way of framing Christ:
“Man was so limited: he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died: the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater the glory lay around the death; it was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or civilization–it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.”
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“Today, the choir will sing, but the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of the infants who will make a noise. Some will cry because they are not comfortable or because they are hungry. If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important people here.”
It’s not often the Catholic Church does something that I actually like. So I am very pleased to read that when Pope Francis baptized 32 babies yesterday, he first told all the mothers sitting in the pews of the Sistine Chapel not to feel shy about breastfeeding. How awesome is that? Last month, the Pope also told an Italian newspaper that he encouraged a mother to nurse her hungry child in the church, even though she seemed hesitant to do so — perhaps out of fear that it would be frowned upon by fellow churchgoers. Hey, it happens practically everywhere else. By encouraging nursing moms to breastfeed when they — and their babies! — see fit, the Pope is making a strong statement that breastfeeding should not be looked at as risqué or sinful. That’s a message moms everywhere need to hear. [Independent UK] [Image of breastfeeding mother via Shutterstock; image of Pope Francis via Getty]
Pope Francis continues to make news by making waves: for assuring the world that atheists can be good people, for blessing leather-clad Harley riders, and, now, for softening the church’s position on gay priests. With the ink barely dry on yet another big news moment (he racked up the No. 2 most-attended papal address on record yesterday), Pope Francis boarded the papal plane and gave his first news conference during his overnight flight back to the Vatican. This is the line getting a good bit of attention: “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can’t marginalize these people.” Read more on Newser…
We could debate the choice of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Catholic Pope, but that’s not half as exciting as the startling realization that Pope Francis I looks exactly like George Bluth Sr. (aka Jeffrey Tambor) from “Arrested Development.” I mean, right?