I was having a conversation recently with my friend, the most esteemed B. Allen Young, MC (Master of Ceremonies at St. Agnes Church, in St. Paul, MN) about the Holy Father's Maundy Thursday changes from the traditional schedule of celebrating the Mass of Holy Thursday to the prison in Rome.
A couple of things struck me in the conversation. First, Allen brought up the point that it is a good thing that the Holy Father is paying attention to the poor and being the "Everyman Pontiff." That certainly has been the timbre of the pontificate since Paul VI famously (and rashly, in my opinion) laid aside the Triple Tiara, but I think that something is being missed, and Allen agrees. The Holy Father cannot forgo the glory of Holy Mother Church in order to only minister to the poor. While ministry to the poor is certainly important, it is not ALL there is to the Church. And the Pope Francis should not forget that. There is also a patrimony to the Church which does exist and that is a very important aspect to Catholic life. We are not broad-church Protestants, but rather we are a high-church liturgical society. To change that mentality is not his privy. He is the Vicar of Christ. The Church doesn't belong to Pope Francis, but rather it belongs to Christ. Pope Francis is just the 266th steward of that Church waiting for the return of the King.
Second, if the Holy Father is going to celebrate Mass in a "more simple" style, which is his privy, he cannot forgo the nobility by which he does it. Nobility shouldn't be confused with pious, by the way. So, some will argue that the Holy Father is more noble, because he is soft spoken in his words as he prays the Canon or some such...no friends, that is not the case. Noble simplicity exists in the fact that the celebration of a Papal Mass is done with the ceremony in which it is due. Pope Benedict celebrated a very simple Mass, but it was noble. It paid homage to the role the Vicar plays in the Church, while still not enjoining a hundred attendants. I think that as Pope Francis comes into his own, he MUST recognize that.
I said to Allen that by shedding the trappings of the pontificate, Pope Francis is shedding the importance of his calling. It is true. The ministry of Peter isn't his personal ministry, it is the ministry of the Church through him, who is called to be the Vicar of Christ.
So, the fact that Francis is a humble and meek Pope is fine. But, he cannot lose the patrimony of the Church, it is just as much his responsibility to foster that aspect as it is to say Mass in a prison. The concerns that people have about Pauperism are very real. It is not in the best interest of the Church to shed the mozzetta and the red shoes and the particular way that the Pope blesses the faithful, because those actions and things don't belong to Pope Francis' personal style, they belong to the Papacy. They belong to the Papacy as much as kissing the feet of an AIDS patient.
My prayer is that Jorge Bergoglio realizes that he is no longer just Jorge Bergoglio, but now he is also Francis, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God. To just be the kind, Bishop of Rome isn't enough. The part can never exceed the whole!