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Pope Francis Talks on Beauty of Simple Life, Bikes Not Fancy Cars | KFP Articles
Pope Francis Talks on Beauty of Simple Life, Bikes Not Fancy Cars PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 July 2013 21:07

Much ado has been made about the Pope's comments to seminarians about driving humbler cars or to ride a bike.  As is expected the main point is often missed in the mess of dealing with the suggestions from the media and from friends that seeing priests driving nice cars is a sign that the Church is "worldly" and disinterested in serving the poor.  Fr. Z has been right to point out that many priests have to deal with challenges from their parishioners and undue criticism for having a new and reliable car.  However, questioning the prudence of the Pope's off the cuff remarks is not the same thing as assessing the value of those comments considered in terms of the Pope's intent. 

Pope Francis is calling the Church to living a simple life more in tune with God's creation, the people on the streets immediately surrounding us and developing some solidarity with the poor.  Now mind you, this is the opinion of someone that just arrived home after a 15 mile bike commute from work.  But we all need his reminder of our humble calling.  Here's how his comments were reported:

Some of the greatest dangers standing in the way of a happy religious life are materialism and a culture that believes nothing is forever, he said. The Pontiff went on to say that religious men and women have to avoid the temptation of thinking “the latest smartphone, the fastest moped and a car that turns heads” will make them happy.

Pope Francis revealed that it pains him when he sees a nun or priest driving an expensive car, and he praised the beauty of the bicycle, noting his 54-year-old personal secretary, Msgr Alfred Xuereb, gets around on a bike.

However, he admitted that with work to be done and distances to be covered, cars are a necessity. Just “get a humbler one,” he said, before adding that if the flashier model still looks tempting, “think about how many children are dying of hunger”.

In his pontificate, the Pope has made his intentions clear, he will call us to a simple life and attempt to refocus our minds on the poor, not just to provide social services, but to enliven the Church's encounter with Christ.  Here's a translation of what Pope Francis said:

Some will say: joy is born from the things one has, and so, the search for the latest model of the smartphone, the fastest scooter, the car that attracts attention … But I tell you, really, I feel badly when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car: but this can’t be! You are thinking this: but, Father, must we now go on bicycles? The bicycle is good! Monsignor Alfred goes on bicycle, he goes with his bicycle. I think a car is necessary, because so much work must be done here and there, but choose a more modest bicycle! And if you like a lovely one, think of how many children die of hunger, think of this alone! Joy is not born, does not come from the things one has! Others say it comes from the most extreme experiences:  to feel the thrill of the strongest sensations; youth likes to live on the knife’s edge, it really likes this! Others think it comes from dressing more fashionably, from entertainment in the most fashionable places – but in saying this I’m not saying that nuns go to such places, I say it of young people in general. Others, yet, from success with girls or boys, go perhaps from one to the other. It’s this insecurity of love, which isn’t secure; it’s a “test” of love.” And we could continue … You also are in contact with this reality which you can’t ignore.

We know that all this can extinguish a desire, can create emotions, but in the end it’s a joy that remains superficial, it doesn’t go deep down, it’s not a profound joy: it’s the inebriation of a moment that does not render us truly happy. Joy is not the inebriation of a moment, it’s something else!

True joy doesn’t come from things, from having, no! It’s born from the encounter, from the relation with others. It’s born from feeling accepted, understood, loved and from this acceptance, this understanding and this love, and not because it’s of interest for the moment, but because the other, the other is a person. Joy is born from the gratuitousness of an encounter! And from hearing it said: “You are important to me,” not necessarily in words. This is beautiful … And it is this, in fact, that God makes us understand. In calling us God says to us: “You are important to me, I love you, I count on you.” Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from here, the joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. To understand and to feel this is the secret of our joy. To feel loved by God, to feel that for Him we are not numbers, but persons; and to feel that it is He who calls us


To be joyful witnesses of the Gospel we must be genuine, coherent. And this is another word I wish to say to you: authenticity. Jesus so castigated hypocrites: hypocrites, those who think low;

Those who have – to say it clearly, a double face. It doesn’t cost to speak to young people of authenticity, because young people – all of them – have the desire to be authentic, to be coherent. And it makes all of you ill, when you see in us priests who aren’t authentic and nuns who aren’t authentic!

A quick note on young people and their interests.  There are studies that show the ratio of cars to people has been dropping.  The trend is related to many factors among which include economic factors such as the recent economic crash and the cost of gas.  However, the Washington Post reports that "Between 2001 and 2009, the average yearly number of miles driven by 16- to 34-year-olds dropped a staggering 23 percent. The Frontier Group has the most comprehensive look yet of why younger Americans are opting out of driving. Public transportation use is up 40 percent per capita in this age group since 2001. Bicycling is up 24 percent overall in that time period. And this is true even for young Americans who are financially well off."  Perhaps there's a desire among the young that have been presented with so much materialism to live a simple life that places being before having.

Back to Pope Francis:

This is, first of all, a responsibility of adults, of formators. It is up to you, formators here present to give an example of coherence to the younger ones. Do we want coherent young people? Let’s us be coherent! Otherwise, the Lord will say to us what he said of the Pharisees to the people of God: “Do what they say, but not what they do!” Coherence and authenticity!


I would like a more missionary Church, one that is not so tranquil. A beautiful Church that goes forward. Over these days so many men and women missionaries have come to the morning Mass, here at Saint Martha’s, and when they greeted me, they’ve said: “But I’m an elderly nun, I’ve been in the Ciad for forty years, I’ve been here and there …” How beautiful! But have you understood that this nun passed these years like this, because she never ceased to encounter Jesus in prayer. It is necessary to go out of oneself, towards transcendence to Jesus in prayer, towards the transcendence of others in the apostolate, in work. Make your contribution to a Church such as this: faithful to the way that Jesus desires. Don’t learn from us, from us who are no longer very young; don’t learn from us that sport that we, the elderly, often engage in: the sport of lament! Don’t learn from us the cult of the complaining goddess.” She is a goddess that is always lamenting. But be positive, cultivate the spiritual life and at the same time, go out, be able to meet people, especially those most scorned and disadvantaged. Don’t be afraid to go against the current. Be contemplatives and missionaries. Have Our Lady always with you, pray the Rosary, please … Don’t abandon it! Always have Our Lady with you in your home, as the Apostle John had her. May she always accompany you and protect you. And pray also for me, because I am also in need of prayer, because I’m a poor sinner, but we go forward.


For the full translation of the Pope's address see the Zenit news Story:

Pope Francis Address to Seminarians and Novices (Part 1)

Pope Francis Address to Seminarians and Novices (Part 2)

Pope Francis Address to Seminarians and Novices (Part 3)

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