He and his mother are both lapsed Catholics, so I thought Pope Francis would be a good 'evangelising moment' for two people who are no longer practising the Faith.
"What do you think of Pope Francis?" I asked his mother.
"Oh," she replied, "I think he's wonderful, a real breath of fresh air."
So with such a positive response, I asked, "Does it inspire you to go to Mass again?"
"No," she replied, "Nothing could do that."
"No, nothing could do that." Depressing!
She added, "I shouldn't have given it up in the first place," as if giving something up means that you cannot take it up again. I've given up smoking before and I took it up again, so its not impossible.
I wanted to talk to her son, my friend about the new Pope, among other things, but he was unfortunately too drunk to discuss anything coherently. I didn't stay with him long, so shame on me for not 'practising what I preach' about the 'valuing people because they are made in the image and likeness of God' rather than for their 'social productivity'. The friend got paid today, so today is vodka day. He, too, seemed pleased with Pope Francis but...so what? If the lapsed find admirable qualities in the Successor of St Peter but have no desire to be in communion with him, then what is the good in that? The Papacy is not about the admirable personal qualities on the Pope.
I asked someone else I know who I believe is away from the Church, a lapsed Catholic, who is from Malta. "What do you think of the new Pope, Francis?" I asked. "Oh, he's wonderful. Hopefully he can clear the Church of so many problems," he replied.
I kind of had the feeling that a new Pope and a 'new breath of fresh air' doesn't necessarily mean much to the lapsed, the Church's children that She has lost over the years for various reasons. My own parents are agnostic/bordering on atheist, yet they seem to love the new Pope. The likelihood of them attending any Mass but for my wedding/funeral are slim to non-existent.
Doubtless a new Pope awakens some interest or curiosity or even excitement in the minds and hearts of men and women who are no longer or who have never been close to the Catholic Church, but that isn't really what Salvation is about. Salvation is not about admiring Jesus, His Mother or His Pope, but having a relationship with Jesus Christ in His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is the quality of this relationship as well as what this means for all our personal relationships that will decide our eternal destiny.
So forgive my pessimism, I'm a little depressed in general, but good news for the Catholic Church is not necessarily good news for the lapsed if "nothing" will bring them back or entice them in. Pray for them. We know what people want - the love and forgiveness of Christ - its just that certainly I find it hard to express, in person, that is what they want and how they can obtain it. Despite what I write on this blog, some readers will be surprised that I have a natural aversion to 'ramming religion down people's throats.' With 'Francismania' in full swing in the media, however, I thought we need a little perspective. For most lapsed Catholics and for those outside of the Church I guess things will just carry on as usual...