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White smoke


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First pope from the Americas. First Jesuit pope. First Pope to be named Francis. Our new Holy Father stepped onto St. Peter's balcony completely comfortable in himself; comfortable enough to eschew the more flashy pieces of the papal wardrobe, speak off-script, bow before his flock and the world, lead the simplest and most basic prayers, and then wish everyone a good rest. My advice is to take it.

Without a doubt the first week of this papacy has surprised -- and delighted -- us. But before we all cozy up to Pope Francis, I'd recommend taking a deep breath and holding on tight, because, brothers and sisters, it looks like we're in for quite a ride.

For now, Pope Francis is being celebrated by the media. And not without reason. It is, after all, endearing to see a pontiff pay his own hotel bill, and inspiring to hear how Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio lived in a small Buenos Aires apartment and took the bus. It is less endearing, however, to think about doing likewise.

As the supreme teacher of the Church, Pope Francis has a lot to offer us in terms of basic instruction. And, I think, most of us are about to discover just how not-beyond-the-basics we are. Remembering the poor sounds good and plays well. That is, until it costs us something. Rebuilding the Church is an appealing agenda, too, until we have to give up something we treasure, or the ladder we had been climbing or hoped to climb.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting ready for a complete spiritual overhaul. And by that, I mean I am desperately trying to make sure that I'm bracing for what this Holy Father will bring, and not against it. I suspect that in the near future I will begin to find out just how attached I have become to externals, to things that matter less than the things that matter most of all. And when that truth hits me like the ton of bricks it is, I expect that part of me will applaud and admire what Pope Francis embraces, and part will do everything it can to avoid emulating his example. The question is: Which part will ultimately win?

It seems the Year of Faith has taken an unexpected turn. Instead of learning more about what we believe, we are being asked to live more of what we believe. And if there is something Pope Francis will not allow us to forget, it is that that kind of living means loving.

Somewhere along the way, many of us have fallen into a pattern of loving from a distance. We do this in a thousand ways, many of which are made oh-so-much easier by advanced technology. But if we still can't resist giving an inner nod to an archbishop who rides the bus and a pope who stands instead of sitting on a throne, then we ought to admit that we know better. Real communion closes the distance between hearts, and real love eliminates it.

Ours is a God who seeks out every possible avenue of intimacy with us. He creates us in his image, calls us to his likeness, chooses us as his own, and forgives us when we sin. In Christ, God goes even further. By taking up our humanity, God saves us, adopts as his children, and espouses us as his bride. If we do not feel worthy, it is because we are not worthy. Still, our lowliness draws God closer. It attracts not only his attention, but his love.

Anyone who has watched Pope Francis in action knows exactly how this works. We love this priest from Argentina even though we have known him for such a short time. We are captivated by his humility, and excited by the possibilities such unassuming openness might present. We can't help but bow when he does. And with God's grace, I pray that we can't resist following where he will lead.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.

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