It’s rare an authority figure tells you to make trouble.
Rarer still when he happens to be the Holy See.
Yet, to my delight, this is what seems to have happened at World Youth Day in Brazil this week. Pope Francis, while speaking to Catholic youth gathered in Rio, encouraged them to “shake things up” and “make trouble in the diocese.”
Throughout my Catholic journey, this is the clearest time in recent history that the Pope has spoken directly to the model I was taught. To be closer to the people, to practice subsidiarity, and value tradition while questioning its impact on modern life.
To push on boundaries from a place of faith, believing that what cannot hold up to questioning must fall down.
To humble ourselves in recognition of life’s realities and respond with love, not restriction.
The trouble Francis is talking about is not a violent, destructive movement, but one he hopes can bring out the best in all of us – to be compassionate, creative and enliven a faith too often laden with its own hypocrisy.
Delivered in his native Spanish: “I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!…I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!”
Somedays, in words and moments like this, I do find real hope. And if that doesn’t call for some hippie-Irish-cross-band jam, I don’t know what does: