Could Francis Effect be one of the Games of the Holy Spirit? 

As the social media buzzes with Pope Francis’s reform of the Church, I am reminded of the words of Gamaliel, a wise man: “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:39).

The Wisdom of Gameliel

Indeed, when the new community of Jerusalem was challenging the beliefs of their faith community, Gamaliel, a learned doctor of the law, put aside his judgement and theological studies and opened his heart to a new perspective that was previously unknown to him and his people.

Today, more than ever, I am praying for the wisdom of Gamaliel. I pray so because, in this era of social media, it appears that many Christians forget the historical evolution of the Church. As a result, we allow emotions to cloud our judgment in certain situations. However, throughout the Church’s history, there have always been moments that were initially seen as disastrous but ultimately turned out to be blessings. To understand this, it is essential to remember that the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways. 

The Council of Jerusalem

In the history of the Church, every time there has been a renewal, it has been seen as a potential danger to the established beliefs. However, retrospectively, such moments have always turned out to be a blessing. Today, we are witnessing the Francis effect. Still, can’t we learn from other situations in the Church’s past, which seemed disastrous at first but were preludes to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit?

At the Council of Jerusalem, Paul urged his fellow believers to put down their swords and reconsider the interpretation of the law in a way that included their non-Jewish brethren. This may seem like a simple request now, but it was a significant shift that left many communities of Jesus of Nazareth confused for many centuries.

The Plight of Doctor Angelicus

During the height of St Thomas Aquinas’ theological evolution, he faced accusations of wanting to baptize Aristotle. At that time, Paris was the center of Catholic intellectualism, and many thought him to be a heretic. This led to the indexing of some of his works, and he was called to appear in Rome to explain himself. However, he passed away before he could make it to Rome. Today, Thomas Aquinas is widely regarded as the greatest theologian ever.

Luther and His 99 Theses

When Martin Luther nailed his 99 Theses to the church door, he was met with strong opposition and accusations of heresy. Fearing his life, he fled and was later condemned. However, Luther’s teachings eventually won the support of some Christians and princes, sparing him from execution. Today, theologians widely recognize that the Holy Spirit played a significant role in using Luther to bring about necessary changes within the Church. 

The Nouvelle Théologie Movement

In the past, when the New Theologians (Yves Congar, Chenu, De Luba, and others) challenged Neothomism, they were labelled as traitors. Many were punished with suspension from teaching, and some were even exiled. Although highly regarded today, Karl Rahner was accused of prioritizing philosophical foundationalism over Christian tradition and the ecclesial community. His work was scrutinized by Rome. However, Vatican II recognized their contributions and established them as the greatest Catholic theologians of the 20th century. 

Vatican II Council

After the Vatican II council, a large number of people left the religious life, causing many priests and religious sisters to abandon the Church. In some countries, this resulted in hundreds of departures. Some bishops went against the Church and accused it of betraying the True Faith. 

The Francis Effects

Now, Pope Francis is encouraging the Church to embrace a “change of era.” Still, many people see this as a problem and label him a troublemaker or an enemy, even though they agree that the Holy Spirit revitalizes the Church in different ways.

Finally, we all agree that the gate of hell will not overcome the Church. However, when the Holy Spirit speaks to the Church, we often resist its message. Let’s allow the Church to evolve according to the will of the Holy Spirit. If it’s not the will of the Holy Spirit, Francis will complete his mandate, and the Church will continue to thrive, but if it is the will of the Holy Spirit, we might be unknowingly obstructing his way. 

Photo Credit: Annett Klingner, Pixabay free pictures.

Nnaemeka, O.M.I

Writer & Blogger

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