Thursday, May 1, 2014

My Top 10 Favorite Quotes from Pope Francis (Some Will Surprise You!)

Pope Francis has proved himself to be a revolutionary, setting some hearts on fire with love and other hearts on fire with anger and dismay. After nearly every telephone call or off-the-cuff remark by Pope Francis, at least one Catholic commentator complains that Pope Francis should just stop speaking so freely. I don't see that happening any time soon.

Some of Pope Francis' most controversial comments are actually my favorites. But all of his comments display a clear-sighted vision of the problems facing people today and the immense possibility our Church has to solve those problems through grace and action. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite Francis quotes:

1. "In this day and age, unless Christians are revolutionaries, they are not Christians. They must be revolutionaries through grace!" (from The Church of Mercy). Don't be complacent. Speak up. Ask hard questions. Love difficult people. Pray and give til it hurts. Realize that you are already part of a revolutionary movement that has been sweeping the world for more than 2,000 years. People around the globe are martyred every day for their Christian faith. What are you willing to do for yours?

2.  "If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?" (from World Youth Day 2013 press conference). The Church's teaching on sexuality conflicts sharply with modern sensibilities and continues to be radically misunderstood. People think that Church teaching lacks compassion when nothing could be farther than the truth. The Church encourages us to love and understand our gay brothers and sisters, to hear their stories and struggles without fear or judgment, and to give them the affection and acceptance they crave. Chastity is difficult for young, single people. It is even more difficult for people being asked to face a lifetime of sexual abstinence. There are homosexuals in our Church, and they need our support.

3. "God has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: ... Even the atheists, ...everyone!" (from Homily at May 22, 2013, Mass). This makes my favorite list because it caused my atheist friend to perk up his ears and take notice. Is this true, he wanted to know? Yes, especially for those who have not heard the saving news of Jesus, I explained. It's different for those who know God and still choose to turn their back on him. My clarification made my friend a bit sad. But how amazing that Pope Francis' message of love and redemption sparked the hope of being cherished by a God my friend did not even believe to exist!

4. "We think of our parents, of our grandparents and great-grandparents: they were married in conditions that were much poorer than ours .... Where did they find the strength? They found it in the certainty that the Lord was with them." (from Address to Young People in Assisi). Pope Francis' emphasis on poverty reminds us that many of us in the First World have never known and might never know real financial poverty. We fear unemployment, the perceived financial burdens of marriage and parenthood, we fear the future. But we don't realize that earlier generations had much less money and often much less fear. If we're looking for courage, we might not have to look farther than our own families.

5. "An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!" (from Evangelii Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel). Who wants to be Christian if it means gloomy adherence to a set of kill-joy rules? Pope Francis' plain-spoken words tell us that Christianity is all about joy. If we've lost the joy, that's not the fault of Christianity or the Church. It's up to us to find that joy again and manifest it to others.

6. “If love needs truth, truth also needs love. Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives.” (from Lumen Fidei, or The Light of Faith). Real charity means telling the truth, even when it's hard to face. But do we tell the truth with personal warmth and a desire to help, or are we just wagging a critical finger? The truth doesn't oppress people. It ultimately frees them.

7. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust." (from Prayer to the Holy Family). Pope Francis has requested the intercession of the Holy Family for the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which will discuss issues such as annulment, divorce, and reception of the Eucharist by divorced and remarried Catholics. The synod's ultimate goal is not just temporary reprieve from pain but the splendor of true love as reflected by the Holy Family. Let us all trust that the Holy Family will guide the synod and any changes that result from it.

8. "This relationship between Jesus and the Father is the 'matrix' of the bond between us Christians: if we are intimately part of this 'matrix', this fiery furnace of love, then we can truly become of one single heart and one single soul among us." (from October 30, 2013, General Audience). As leader of a global flock of Catholics, Pope Francis needs to get everybody together and on board with the program. Easy as herding cats, I know. But the first step needs to be stopping the bleeding or, in this case, the fighting. Wasting our energy fighting each other results in hamstringing our ability to move forward together accomplishing great things for God. So let's try to become one single heart and one single soul, united the way God wants us to be.

9. "The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost." (from the America magazine interview). It takes a great man to descend into the darkness without getting lost. We all need to find within ourselves the strength to do that, because that is our common call in baptism -- to preach the good news to all the nations. If we want people to hear us, we need to meet them where they are. If we want to save them, we need to lead them step by step out of the darkness. As St. John Paul II told us, we need to be strong with the strength of God so that we can help one another.

10. "With this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes." (from Letter to Families). Pope Francis' approach to evangelization is to focus in an intensely personal manner on one soul at a time. He wants to enter into our personal, private space and break bread with us. So does Jesus. Each one of us will have to walk through the gates of heaven alone. There's no separate entrance for bus tours, and we can't expect to achieve salvation because our pope or our priest or our next-door neighbor does. We must open the door to our homes and hearts and let Christ in. Pope Francis is more than ready to show us how.

What's your favorite Francis quote and why? Tell us in the comments!

For more great Pope Francis quotes, check out the new book The Church of Mercy, by Pope Francis, just released by Loyola Press.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Patrice. So happy to hear from you!

  2. I thought your quotes and comments were excellent. However, there are some situations where the Pope's words and quotes play into the hands that use them against those of us trying to do the right thing. A friend of mine has suffered a significant work setback for criticizing , in a private venue and as a Christian, the concept of gay marriage. Many of us have been denied positions because of a prolife stance . The lay press doesn't understand the concept of "loving the sinner, hating the sin" and therefore uses the Pope's words, as do others, against those who would defend marriage, life and other issues . The Pope's words are a powerful weapon when misused.

    1. Thank you for your insightful response! I sympathize with people who suffer for speaking out on these issues, particularly when their employment is at stake. And it is true that the lay press often speculates that Pope Francis' words signal an upcoming change in Church doctrine. But it's also true that people working in secular, parish, or even diocesan positions have suffered discrimination for holding orthodox religious views even before Pope Francis took the chair of Peter. He may have emboldened some people, but I don't think that anyone who has seriously studied these issues and grasped the clear content and immutability of these doctrines would change their mind because of the Pope's off-the-cuff statements. More conservative Catholics (for want of a better label) received a lot of consolation during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but sometimes God takes external consolations away from us. In those circumstances, we have to receive our consolations from Jesus alone and these types of setbacks can draw us much closer to our Lord if we let them.

    2. my favourite Pope Francis quote is "I believe in God - not a Catholic God - there is no Catholic God - there is God

    3. Walton Dunbar. LouisianaNovember 20, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      I am a Protestant Pastor who has worked in many Catholic settings where from some more orthodox Catholics I have experienced discrimination and treatment as a second class Christian. From other Catholic family, friends, co-ministers I have also been affirmed. Pope Francis remarks like the one about God above gives me hope for the openning of another window as did Pope John XXIII.

    4. I agree that our shared belief in the Lord Jesus Christ should bring Protestants and Catholics further together rather than push them apart. In many respects, we all have the same mission and we should help one another on the journey.

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