Jorge Mario Bergoglio was just named the new pope. I am not Catholic but I am a great respecter of renegades – people who go against the norm and beyond normal. I’m just learning about the new pope, but he seems like that kind of guy:
- In Argentina he gave up the mansion reserved for the man who held his position of cardinal and instead rented a one-room apartment heated by a small stove.
- He refused to be driven around in a limo, instead electing to take the bus.
- He elected not to use the private chef assigned to him, instead cooking his own meals.
He could have been one of “them” – the people who have risen above the rest of the world, who look down at “us” through tinted windows from the back seats of their cars. Instead, he chose to be one of us.
He reminds me of someone I write about in my new book, another renegade named Father Damien.
Kalaupapa is one of the most beautiful parts of Molokai, which is one of the Hawaiian Islands. It was once home to a leper colony. In the 1840s cases of leprosy started to break out in Hawaii, and the government segregated all with the disease to Kalaupapa.
Those who caught the disease had become “them” and those who were a part of “us” wanted nothing to do with them.
Father Damien was a priest serving in Hawaii when, in 1873, at the age of thirty-three, he wrote his superiors, “I want to sacrifice myself for the poor lepers.” They eventually said yes. He moved to Kalaupapa, and for sixteen years poured out his life serving them, loving them, and burying them. He learned their language, organized schools, bands, and choirs, built homes for them to live in and coffins for them to be buried in, and always spoke to them of the love of God. He became one of them. He became a leper, not only metaphorically through his friendship to them, but eventually literally. One day he began his sermon with the words, “We lepers,” and everyone realized that they were now truly in it together. For the lepers, he had truly become one of us. He had chosen to live as they lived, and now he would die as they died. Father Damien did so at the age of fifty-five.
Renegades are driven by compassion, and so they never elevate themselves to “them” status. And that’s a good thing, because we’re all sick in different ways, and we need someone who cares and will do something about it. Someone willing to use their power for the weak. Someone rich who will give for the poor. Someone up and in who cares about the down and out. We need one of them who will become one of us.
Seems like the new pope is that kind of guy, and I hope he uses his new position of immense influence to do incredible good.
When you think about it, there’s a sense in which we’re all one of “them.” You may not be the new pope (unless you are the new pope, in which case, what the crap are you doing reading my blog?!). You may not be in the 1%. But you have a lot more power and riches than a lot of people. What if you were driven by compassion? What if you found some ways to use your influence to do some good? There’s some “us” out there who needs you to become one of them. And you can find a way to do that.