Some thoughts on the Angelus


Just the other day pope Francis led his first Angelus of his pontificate. Reports say there were 150,000 people in attendance, and it was broadcast worldwide. Certainly there is a great deal of jubilation for this new pope, even from Protestants. One article I read had the following snippet:

Although she couldn’t understand the content of his talk, the emotion of the moment got to Lucy Fanning of Pennington, N.J.

“This is …” she said before fanning her face with her hand.

“I’m not even Catholic, I’m Protestant, but this is messing me up a bit,” Fanning said, as her husband, Joe, a Catholic, smiled. The couple is escorting a group of private school Latin students around Italy.

“You can tell this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Casey McGovern, 16, explaining the group’s decision to brave the huge crowds only to get as far as a quarter-mile from St. Peter’s. “It’s his first address as pope to the people. You have to be here.”

Love this: “…but this is messing me up a bit.” I know that feeling. I too have been messed up a bit by my observations and experience of Catholicism.

Love this: “You have to be here.” Isn’t it interesting the attention the pope engenders? One could even say there is a kind of obsession with the Catholic Church over and above all other churches. The closest thing Protestantism has to a pope may be the head of the Anglican church, and not many cared all that much when they recently chose a new head.

One possible way to describe this is that there is only one church in the world that seems to stand for “the Church”, and that is the Catholic Church. When the secular media speak of the Church, they mean the Catholic Church. Everyone else is in relationship, one way or another, to it. Therefore, when the Church chooses a new pope, you have to be there. You may not know why, but you feel it. If one is Protestant, at least the American-fundamentalist-evangelical kind that I am familiar with, then one is likely not trained or prepared to know how to explain those feelings elicited by things Catholic, those feelings that “mess” one up a bit and make one just know it’s important to “be there”. It seems to be much more than just a big show, it seems to be fundamental.

Perhaps a truly honest assessment of those feelings may lead us to greater unity within the body of Christ.


  1. This is one of the most lucid descriptions I’ve read of “that feeling.” Studying history in school, I began to feel it when I learned about the Church and the popes; and then I felt it overpoweringly in John Paul II’s last days and Benedict’s conclave and election, which I watched raptly. And then I went to Rome (the literal one) only a week or so later, and heard one of Benedict’s weekly audinces, and he said a blessing over the whole crowd. Though it took a long time for those seeds to grow, I really think “that feeling” has a lot to do with my being in th Church today.

  2. The Mormons say something very similar to what you have written Joseph, especially that last sentence. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that a Muslim would express similar sentiments upon visiting Mecca.

    I’m not trying to come off as some pluralist contrarian. (In fact, I’m a disillusioned Protestant myself.) My point is simply a logical one: that there can’t be any legitimate inference made to the truth of Roman Catholic ecclesiology from an association of “the feeling” with certain goings-on with the Pope. That would amount to some kind of correlative fallacy (cum hoc propter hoc perhaps, or maybe a type of confirmation bias).

    Even good RC philosophers and theologians will tell you not to put too much stock in your feelings as a trustworthy guide. As Aquinas said, “…emotions cloud or even fetter the judgment of reason” (de Malo III.11).

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