Pope Francis, I love. He is a good man, with a warm heart and a big moral imagination. And I think he had such an impact on his visit here as he’s had around the world because he cares so deeply about the least of these. And in that sense, expresses what I consider to be as a Christian the essence of Christianity.
…I think it’s really useful that he makes us uncomfortable in his gentle way. That he’s constantly prodding people’s consciences and asking everybody all across the political spectrum, what more you can do to be kind, and to be helpful, and to love, and to sacrifice, and to serve. —President Barack Obama on Pope Francis, October 2, 2015
I understand the sentiment. I was glued to the television during Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. I was amazed and inspired by his interactions with so many people, from the President to prisoners. So I took a few days to really consider what I could learn from him on both a personal and a professional level.
Clearly, he has much to teach from a religious and spiritual aspect. For example, I found myself asking what more I could do to serve. Is my busy schedule a valid concern, or am I hiding behind that as an excuse, and merely need to organize my schedule in a tighter way? And speaking of the aforementioned prisoners–does everyone have the capacity to change–even the most hardened prisoner? I’m not sure I agree. But his words persuaded me to at least consider the possibility.
That persuasive ability is not only the hallmark of a great religious leader, but also is the hallmark of a great speaker. Pope Francis excelled in that regard. So his addresses and remarks also can teach us about the power of speaking and connecting with an audience.
Among my personal three highlights? First, the remarks he delivered during his White House welcoming ceremony.
Such excitement surrounds His Holiness’ visit. I feel it, too. President Obama and the First Lady will greet the Pope at Joint Base Andrews, along with Vice President and Dr. Biden, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.
That type of welcome to the United States rarely happens.
I especially await the message he will bring to Capitol Hill during a joint session of Congress on September 24. (I will post the speech as soon as transcripts and video are available.)
So, before he lands on North American soil, watch a “virtual visit” Pope Francis made a couple of weeks ago to parishioners in cities he wouldn’t have time to visit. Watch especially at the 2:25 mark, as he encouraged a girl who had once been bullied to sing for him. Of course, she was nervous. Truth be told, I’d be nervous, too.
But he–speaking in English–encouraged her to be courageous. The moment was pure magic. It was also another example of how the Pontiff connects with his audience: using the power of his moral authority; speaking with warmth; and showing a bit of humility by speaking in English, which is not his strongest language. He was demonstrating some courage, too.
Be courageous, everyone! Speak, and act, with courage.
And welcome, Pope Francis.