Like a conductor, the Pope leads, directs, governs, and coordinates his ‘orchestra.’ Yet, neither conductor nor pope is absolute in his role. Whereas the instrumentalists master their parts, the conductor functions like a director of traffic not only learning the entire map of the musical highway but also dealing with the interrelationships of sections to whole. Conductors interpret the score according to the composer’s intent; popes pledge fidelity to the Church’s Revelation, Scripture, and the Magisterium.
Wise and effective conductors consult with their instrumentalists. So too, with Pope Francis. Here, consulting means not soliciting an opinion but a fact, as one consults another for the time of day. In the final analysis, all breathe together as one, with the maestro’s interpretation as the final word. Conflicts must be resolved with due respect for each instrumentalist. Still, orchestral unity rests not with the individual sections but with the maestro who leaves his imprint on the orchestra’s reputation, thus separating his orchestra from all others. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Beethoven Nine Symphonies like no other. Pope Francis will leave his impress on the Church, as have his predecessors.
In Francis, we have a Renaissance Man with a distinct preference for the downtrodden. Though seemingly opposed to power as power over others, he speaks with a powerful and convincing authority—like Jesus. The ‘author’ in authority connotes a speaker’s talent and his or her ability to evoke the creativity of others. In Italian, there are two words linked with power, both repugnant: superbia and orgoglio. The former connotes lording it over others, having a superiority attitude of condescension; the latter, connotes oozing with pride.
In the key of F Major, the Pope stresses the pastoral side of church leaders who divest themselves of luxury, of an attitude of power over rather than authority with. To be a credible witness to what she proclaims, the Church needs leaders who live simply, even abstemiously, without pomp or luxury, leaders who are detached from power, privilege, prestige, and position because all are entrusted to them for a short time.
In the Lucan gospel (6:12-14), we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ authority. When he came down the mountain from prayer with his Father, power went out from him. The crowds saw it; they experienced it. It was a matter of ‘come and see’ and ‘come, follow me;’ then he asked his disciples ‘stand with me’ and ‘remain with me.’ This scriptural reference also forms the backbone of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
In six short months, Pope Francis has addressed many groups within the Church: the Ordained, symbolizing order, law, and stability, as well as the Non-Ordained of laity and consecrated religious, symbolizing creativity and dynamism. When the Lord washes the feet of Peter who wants to unite himself with his Master, he Peter must renounce status and all that is associated with status—glory and honorifics. The Lord chooses a servile but loving act to give the example. What Jesus has done for and to him, all of us are called to repeat to and for others. Our vocation is to share in the Lord’s redemptive work for the sake of others. Henceforth, the mandate given to Peter will be the loving service that marks Christian discipleship. The mission is so explicit that it cannot be misunderstood or misinterpreted.