The effect any individual pope may have on people is a story that's really hard to tell in a way that can establish any broad pattern, given that there are more than 7 billion individuals on the planet.
But I suspect that the way Pope Francis is seen by the author of this intriguing piece is pretty common. The article is from Notre Dame Magazine and was written by a 1988 graduate of the university.
The author, Andrew Barlow, describes his Catholic upbringing and his eventual departure from the church, which pained his father so much that on his death bed the father urged Barlow to come back to the church.
"I lied when I said I’d think about it, and I hugged him goodbye," he writes. After that he joined a megachurch that turned out to be Southern Baptist. He even became a preacher in that tradition. But eventually something about that didn't feel right to him.
Now Pope Francis is having a magnetic appeal to him. He writes:
As the mania surrounding his U.S. visit showed, Pope Francis has caught the attention of expatriates like me. His loving humility is reminding us of what made “the church of our fathers” so great. Refinements to the language of Mass and theological abstractions aside, his simple, Christ-like focus on the preciousness of the person in front of him is redefining Catholicism for me and increasing the odds of my father’s deathbed wish coming true. That counts as real heroism in my book.
The question, of course, is why each person of faith isn't equally attractive because of the way he or she lives. This calling to live so that others might be attracted to faith is not limited, after all, just to popes.
Years ago one of my pastors used to ask this question: "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"
Clearly there would be for Francis, as this Notre Dame graduate notes. It's one reason that Paul Rock, my pastor, and I wrote our book Jesus, Pope Francis and a Protestant Walk into a Bar: Lessons for the Christian Church. I commend it to you and to any study groups you're part of.
(The selfie photo you see here today, which includes Pope Francis on the left, can be found in our book, used by permission of the young man who took it.)
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TRUMP TO GOD: YOU'RE HUUUGE AND SO AM I
Just for some fun today, let's listen in on a conversation that Donald Trump recently had with God -- at least according to Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen, who should know, given that a few years ago we at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists gave him our Lifetime Achievement Award.