The Visit

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I have a love/hate affair with the kind of silly games that ask seemingly trivial questions that have the power to be life changing. Thus I encountered a query that should have been relatively easy to answer but ended up sending me into a frenzy of thought. Essentially I was asked to choose one person on the planet that I would like to visit in person, only one. 

It was a somewhat disturbing inquiry given the year long isolation in my home that has only recently relaxed just a bit. In the last few weeks I’ve been able to visit my father-in-law and mother-in-law inside their home without masks since we have all been fully vaccinated. We’ve even been able to hug and eat together, a true blessing given that they are both in their nineties with troubling health problems. COVID 19 had restricted our interactions so much that in the back of my mind I was constantly worried that i might somehow bring the illness into their home whenever we dropped by to check on them. I also silently fretted that they might leave this earth before we were able to hug to demonstrate our love again.

My daughters are still insisting on outdoor gatherings with proper social distancing, but the fact that we are getting together is a promising bit of progress. We’ve planned a camping trip with my brother and sister-in-law and each day I get new invitations in my mailbox to various events. Some of them are far enough in the future that I actually think I may be able to attend. Others may be rushing our entry back into a semi state of normalcy. Whatever the case we are tentatively making plans that involve actual human contact in a world that has been locked down to a varying extent for a very unnatural stretch of time. 

Hermits are outliers. The rest of us need and crave interactions with other people. It is as much a part of our natures as eating and sleeping. We have been willing to sacrifice for the common good but as we see a glimmer of hope in the fight against the virus that has so changed the way we live, we are ready to resume the routines, traditions and gatherings that we had scheduled on our calendars before things were so abruptly turned upside down. So asking who on the planet I would like to see brings a host of emotions to my mind. I cannot easily choose because I want to see everyone. I cry at the very thought of reunions and become giddy in my hopefulness while also reminding myself not to be overly optimistic. I do not want to be disappointed by being overly enthusiastic before it is time. 

If I were to force myself to choose just one person to visit in all of the world I suppose that I would like to have a long conversation with someone like Pope Francis. I have many questions to ask him but I worry a bit that I may not like his answers. Still I admire him greatly and I long to talk with him about his views on various topics as well as tell him about some of my own. It would be wonderful to discuss how to approach the challenges of our plant like two friends brainstorming ideas. 

I have to admit that I was both confused and disappointed by the recent papal decree regarding same sex marriage. I’d like to know the pope’s rational for making such a statement particularly at a time when there is already so much pain and turmoil in the world. Calling such unions “a sin” seemed harsh and out of line with Francis’ general character. I have a difficult time understanding how genuine love between two people can be deemed as anything  other than beautiful. It seems to me that Jesus himself never directly addressed such a situation other than to command us to love. Supposed references to same sex liaisons all appear in the old testament, not the new. I would argue with the pope that maybe we should instead rethink the old aversions to a different kind of relationship. Our modern knowledge has shown us that homosexuality is not truly unnatural. Why do we cling to old viewpoints in judging it?

I’d also urge the pope to consider giving women a greater role within the church. I think that allowing females to become priests would breathe new life into the Catholic faith and solve a number of its challenges at the same time. Women are already in powerful positions of all kinds so why not include the priesthood? If we look at strong women like Mother Teresa and Mother Cabrini surely we can see that they accomplished more of the Lord’s work than most men would have been able to do. It’s time we modernize the church and prepare for a future that is more inclusive in its love. Jesus himself often rocked the boat by challenging outmoded thinking. I believe that it is something he would want us to continue to do.

I’d like to ask the pope how I should work to help alleviate the suffering and poverty of so many of God’s children. I live in a wealthy country that has the power to do more but all too often looks the other way when faced with those who have so much less. I want to learn what he thinks Jesus would expect from us. I know that this is a very important topic for him. In fact he has demonstrated his love for the least among us again and again.

I’d also like to hear the pope’s views on protecting our planet. How can we share the earth’s bounty and also be cognizant of the future? What are the sacrifices that we must make? How can we as followers of Christ lead the world toward better days? Additionally I want to discuss how we might encourage more young people to embrace religion along with science and free thinking.

I believe that it would be a true blessing to talk with this holy man and I would do so with reverence but I would not be afraid to question things that worry me. I tend to think that he would agree with my willingness to seek answers. I would hope that his messages to me would fill me with optimism for our humanity because that is what my faith has always meant to me. It is not about exclusion or judgement or punishment. It is and should always be about love. It would be nice to just converse with someone whom I believe to be a kindred spirit even if we end up disagreeing on a few things here and there. I just know it would be a grand visit at his house.

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