Catholic World News

Strip away worldly attitudes, Pope exhorts the faithful

October 04, 2013

On an October 4 pilgrimage to Assisi, celebrating the feast of his namesake, Pope Francis challenged the faithful to strip away all worldly attitudes.

“We are in grave danger,” the Pope said, speaking from the room in which St. Francis stripped off his rich clothing and renounced his life of wealth. “We are in danger of worldliness.”

When he tore off his clothes, the Pope observed, St. Francis was imitating Jesus Christ, who was stripped of his garments on the Cross. St. Francis recognized the need to rid himself of worldly attachments, the Pope said. “And if we want to be Christians, there is no other way.”

Those who attempt to act as Christians without renouncing their worldly attitudes become “pastry-shop Christians,” the Pope said—“nice sweet things, but no real Christians.” “The worldly spirit kills; it kills people,” the Pontiff continued. “It kills the Church.”

While he spoke of the need to purify the Church, Pope Francis poked fun at anxious Catholics who had predicted that he would “strip the bishops, the cardinals, himself” during his visit to Assisi. He assured listeners that he intends only to strengthen the Church by eliminating distractions.

“Worldliness leads us to vanity, self-importance, pride,” the Pope said. “And this is an idol, it is not God. It is an idol! And idolatry is the gravest sin of all!”

The Pope also cautioned against the tendency to think of “the Church” as composed only of the hierarchy. “When the media speak of the Church, they believe that the Church means priests, nuns, bishops, cardinals and the Pope,” he observed. “But we are all Church, as I have said. And we must all cast aside this worldiness: the spirit contrary to the beatitudes, the spirit contrary to that of Jesus.”

Pope Francis—who was accompanied on his trip to Assisi by the 8 cardinals who constitute the Council of Cardinals—set aside his prepared text to make his first major address of the visit. He also remarked that the day-long pilgrimage, which he had intended as a celebration of the great saint’s heritage, was overshadowed by the tragic deaths of more than 100 immigrants off the island of Lampedusa the previous day.

As he celebrated Mass for a congregation of several thousand, the Pope spoke about the influence of St. Francis, and called particular attention to the key moment in the saint’s life, he prayed before the Cross of San Damiano. “Where did Francis’ journey to Christ begin?” he asked. “It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus.”

The popular image of St. Francis does not recognize the saint’s completely identification with the crucified Christ, the Pope observed. Today most people associate St. Francis with the cause of peace and love for creation, but that perception is badly incomplete. “Franciscan peace is not something saccharine,” the Pope said. “Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos.” Interrupted by applause from the congregation, the Pontiff went on to say that a real Franciscan approach is one of uncompromising devotion to Jesus: a devotion that prompts love for others and for God’s creation. “From this city of peace,” the Pope said, “I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being.”

Later in the day, as he visited the Seraphic Institute, a residence for sick and disabled children, the Pope again set aside a prepared text to speak extemporaneously. Clearly moved emotionally by his interaction with the children, the Pope said: “We are among the wounds of Christ—wounds that need to be acknowledged.” However he reminded the young people that after his Resurrection, “Jesus was beautiful.” Still the Lord took his wounds with Him to heaven, the Pope said. “The wounds of Christ are here and in heaven, before the Father.”


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Show 8 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: John J Plick - Oct. 08, 2013 9:39 PM ET USA

    That makes the Catholic faith "truly American!" An equal opportunity offender...

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Oct. 06, 2013 1:18 AM ET USA

    One of the beauties of the Catholic faith we all share is that when it it is properly followed, it upsets everyone equally. And well it should, since we are all imperfect sinners.

  • Posted by: unum - Oct. 05, 2013 7:33 AM ET USA

    loumiamo7154 may misunderstand the Holy Father. The Pope defines "pastry shop Christians" as "those who attempt to act as Christians without renouncing their worldly attitudes". St. Francis spoke by example, not by words, just as Jesus' did. I believe the Pope is asking the Church (defined as clergy, religious, and laity together) to follow Francis example and to teach as Jesus did. When we serve others we are the Body of Christ showing the love of Christ.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 04, 2013 11:54 PM ET USA

    I have to agree with "loumiamo7154". This is just too vernacular, bordering on trite. Homilies that constantly warn me against the wiles of the world are tiresome, and I can't offer that message to my kids. This is a turn-off. We need to hear about where we are going. We already know where we are.

  • Posted by: bnewman - Oct. 04, 2013 11:12 PM ET USA

    “Worldliness leads us to vanity, self-importance, pride,” the Pope said. “And this is an idol, it is not God. It is an idol! And idolatry is the gravest sin of all!” This is about more than virtue, whether of the poor or the rich. This is a prophetic call to holiness of a deeper kind: a renunciation of the worldliness which leads to idolatry:again “the gravest sin of all.”

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Oct. 04, 2013 7:15 PM ET USA

    Francis (the Saint)never became "poor" to scandalize the rich... He did not scandalize the Crusaders, either, to whom he preached and exhorted to maintain virtue, although they(the Crusaders) thought it sport to tempt him with a naked prostitute, whom he converted. Love of money has led many into sin, and Francis (the Pope)would warn us against this. Let the virtuous rich maintain their virtue but suffer the indignation of this rebuke for the sake of their fallen rich brothers.May God bless all!

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Oct. 04, 2013 6:50 PM ET USA

    loumiamo, beautifully stated!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 04, 2013 4:37 PM ET USA

    Again with the idea that only the poor are virtuous? St. Paul tells us in Phillipians that "It is God who, in His good will towards you, begets in you any measure of desire or achievement." So now that desire makes us "pastry shop Christians"? How many pastry shop Christians did it take to support St. Francis and his Order when they showed up, hat in hand, doing the Lord's work? How many pastry shop Christians need to succeed so that the poor can have work to support themselves?