Wounded Shepherd

  • Fr John Buckley

Wounded Shepherd by Austen Ivereigh. Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, New York.

Following his authoritative, critically acclaimed The Great Reformer, Austen Ivereigh's new clear-eyed portrait explores Pope Francis' impact on the Catholic Church. Fr John Buckley writes:

In the early Seventies I returned from a missionary tour in West Africa and met up with a fellow missionary who had just come back from his tour in Brazil. We compared notes on our respective pastoral experiences. At the time I remember being rather bemused on hearing of what was going on pastorally in his diocese. I commented something to the effect 'too much...too quick...too soon' . He just smiled. Over a half century on and having read Austen Ivereigh's excellent vivid account of what has evolved in the years between: I can see clearly that back then I was witnessing the gentle breeze that was to turn into Pentecostal Storm. Mr Ivereigh brings deep knowledge and much experience to his task.

Metanoia is a very crucial word here. It is a Biblical term that means - change of mind-change of heart-change of life style. Conversion is another term used to convey a similar occurrence. When it happens to a person it is sometimes followed by a change in the Church. Paul, Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola are examples of such Metanoia. Pope Francis and our time fills the bill. What Austen Ivereigh does well is to describe the Metanoia in Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and then in turn show how it has such a profound influence on the Church in the modern world and of course - will have into the future. But as Pope Francis indicated to Mr Ivereigh himself..excessive focus on Gorge Bergoglio and not on Christ and His Holy Spirit would be would be most distressing and damaging to the work message of the Gospel.

It all goes back to 'Aparecida'. Some of us missionaries speak of 'Before and After Aparecida'. You could respectfully say that 'Aperecida 'equals Jorge Bergoglio equals Pope Francis equals Reformed Church. In May 2007 -The Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopal Council ( CELAM ) was held at Aperecida (Brazil). Very much influenced by the now Pope Francis, it threw down a 'spiritual gauntlet' and told the Catholic Church that it was not fulfilling its vocation in the modern world as it should be doing. All this went unnoticed until the Holy Spirit brought Jorge Bergoglio to the Chair of Peter.

All Pope Francis writes is coloured by the document that was released at Aperecida and the author of Reformed Shepherd makes skilful use of Amoris Laetitia as well as Laudato Si and Evangelii Gaudium. I say this because these documents will shape our time and take us with hope into the future. But again as the author indicates we are only beginning. Centuries of ingrained practice has to be dealt with and will take an inspired leader, as we are blessed with in Pope Francis, to set the pace.

One of the great challenges now is the development of what is referred to (especially by us missionaries) as a People of God Church...or a Synodal One. That word Synod drives fear into some and joy into others. It is a product of Aperecida. It turns the Church upside down and inside out but at the same time keeps the Living Christ at it's centre and is driven by faithful that is fuelled by Faith - Hope -and Love. It embraces a broken world no matter who or where because it all belongs to Christ..that is what they did at Aperecida not just to say but do.

Though 'Wounded Shepherd' is pre Covid-19; Austen Ivereigh's work is so prophetic that it must play a vital part in the post Corona Viral world.

One thing to keep in mind is that for Christ all persons - all humans are sacred. There is a beautiful essay written by Romano Guardini called ' St Francis and Self-Achievement '. At one stage all his friends desert Francis and Guardini comments: " They no longer took him seriously, feeling possibly that here was a seriousness of which they wanted no part. " The new seriousness was that Francis had encountered Love. He had met the reality of Infinite Love in the Crucified Christ. Now he had a new 'Freedom'. Francis of Assisi knew now what Christ meant and what being Christian meant.

In a real sense Jorge Mario Bergoglio has made a similar journey. Austen Ivereigh describes this very well. This is the 'seriousness ' that makes Pope Francis have a rough time in repairing the Catholic Church but also changing the consciousness that brings awareness of Christ, as St Francis knew, being in every person especially those sick or poor or rejected.

Austen Ivereigh does not pull any punches. If I might analogize, Francis has had to deal with one of the most deadly viruses the Church has become infected with - the sexual abuse crisis- a clerical cartel that was corrupt. The way he handled that and other matters has shown him to a leader of such quality that the Church and the world are indeed blessed to have him. His broadcasting and twittering and preaching are sprinkled with words of Hope- Love - Mercy -Joy and above all directed at all humanity...nobody is immune.

One final thought and Austen Ivereigh tip toes around it - wisely for now - that is the feminine - women's role in the Church. You cannot have a truly Synodal Church unless this evolves. Women by Baptism - Confirmation - Eucharist are essential Church of God People..what that means is clear to Pope Francis.. but as the author of 'Wounded Shepherd' intimates - this needs much prayer and work and honesty. All this and more in this powerful book.

Tags: The Great Reformer, Austen Ivereigh, Fr John Buckley, Austen Ivereigh, Wounded Shepherd, Pope Francis

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