Earlier this week, I led a discussion on Pope Francis at a Theology on Tap gathering for the New Albany Deanery in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. About 20 young adults spent an hour and a half talking about our impressions of Pope Francis and, specifically, how his message and leadership of the Church impacts the lives of young adults. It was a great conversation – these young adults, like much of the world, are clearly impressed with the witness and example of our Holy Father, but they also are interested in learning more about what he actually says – not just what the media reports that he says.

One of the more interesting aspects of the conversation, for me, was how much young adults today – and many people in general – are focused on the here and now, what is happening today, while often not having a strong understanding or appreciation of what has come before. I think this is partly a result of instant technology – the impact of Twitter on society has emphasized the message of now. So, for example, many of these young adults had a difficult time comprehending how Pope Francis is in continuity with his predecessors, especially Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – simply because their primary knowledge and experience of the papacy and the Church is what is happening right now. This generation knows very little concretely about Blessed Pope John Paul II – his pontificate was so long ago! And the fact that Pope Francis often speaks in 140-character sound-bytes makes his message memorable, at least in the short term – reinforcing the experience of the present.

With that background, these young adults eager to embrace the attitude and example that Pope Francis brings to the world – we talked for quite a while about how, practically, young adults are called to “make noise” and “make themselves heard” in the world, as Pope Francis challenged young people during World Youth Day. They also latched on to the call for simplicity – both among Church leaders and all people – an interesting commentary coming from young adults in a world that idolizes materialism and wealth.

At the end of my presentation, I shared what I think are some of the most evocative images and ideas culled from the many speeches and homilies Pope Francis has given in the last seven months. Any of these would be a great starting point for conversation, not just about our Holy Father, but about what it means to be Catholic in today’s world.

10 Images and Ideas from Pope Francis

The Church as a field hospital
The danger of being self-referential
Mary is more important than the apostles
Discernment of spirits
Collegiality
Clergy as shepherds with the odor of the sheep
A retreat away from Rome
Marriage as a risk
A poor Church for the poor
Three things necessary … 1) Prayer, 2) Sacraments, 3) Service of others
 

Any other images or ideas from Pope Francis that strike you?

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