“Be creative. Be audacious. Do not be afraid.” Words you might expect to hear from a TED talk rather than Pope Francis, the newly elected head of the Roman Catholic Church. Last week in front of an estimated 3,200,000 young people on Copacabana Beach, Pope Francis demonstrated at the bi-annual World Youth Day that he’s prepared to shake things up. The seventy-six year old Argentine pope returned to his native continent for his first papal trip and garnered rock-star status everywhere he went, which is ironic considering that his lifestyle and public presence consistently evoke humility and authenticity.
It’s no secret that the millennial generation has experienced a huge exodus from church and organized religion. Rachel Held Evans at CNN explains “how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” Perhaps the best instrument for spreading the good news isn’t a pastor in skinny jeans trying to be relatable or the pomp of the old guard but an honest proclamation of belief through action. Pope Francis is not revising long-held dogma to fit the popular zeitgeist. Rather, he’s sharing the Church’s message with a “grammar of simplicity” and genuine compassion. Need proof? See his recent comments on a gay priest in Caroline’s article or this account of his trip to the slums. He’s got a tough job, but this spunky Pope hasn’t slowed down yet. His security detail can barely keep up with him.
You don’t have to believe in God to agree that we must “destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred,” as he said last week. If any generation in recent history embraces this notion, I think it’s ours. Addressing the masses on the beach, he said, “In your young hearts, you have a desire to build a better world. I have been closely following the news reports of the many young people who throughout the world have taken to the streets in order to express their desire for a more just and fraternal society.”
In a culture of sell-outs and let-downs, authenticity is something we crave and something we aspire to achieve. There is nothing more loath than a hypocrite (of which I am often guilty) and more laudable than someone boldly embracing their true self. We witnessed some major let-downs in the character department within the last year. There’s the Petraeus scandal, the super-awkward Anthony Weiner scandal which is some kind of perpetual train wreck. Even his wife Huma is subject to criticism as Mattie’s article deftly points out. The photos of the beach crowded with people from every background reveal the hunger we all have for truth and genuine inspiration.
Regardless of your faith, Pope Francis leads an undeniably authentic life, and it is so refreshing. His words are obviously resonating because @Pontifex was just named the most influential world leader on Twitter, despite having been on Twitter only since his election this past March. I keep hearing people say things like, “I’m not even Catholic and I really like this guy,” or as Esquire put it, “Pope Francis is kind of awesome.”
Let’s take the cue from Pope Francis, and live authentic lives. Let’s turn the world upside down with how genuine, honest and compassionate we can be. Old Abe put it pretty well when he said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” It’s a worthy challenge.
Do you live your life in a way that is consistent with your beliefs? If actions speak louder than words, what do your actions say about you? Are you becoming the person you aspire to be, the person you were called to be?
It will be cool to see how this Pope continues to change the world. I’m rooting for him, and what’s even cooler is that I know he’s rooting for us, too.
Check out BuzzFeed’s picture round up of WYD.
By Kristen Greig