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The Implications of a Pope being the Person of the Year?

Tony Myles —  December 14, 2013 — 9 Comments

I don’t mean to cause a theological debate here.


Actually, yeah… I probably do… but not on purpose.

To clarify, please don’t grab your pitchforks and torches on this. Likewise, this is me – Tony Myles – asking a question. Feel free to direct any bottled up anger in my direction.

I’m taking that risk, because what would be nice is if we could sharpen each other toward clarification, edification and something else than ends with “ation.”

time-person-of-the-year-cover-pope-francisPope Francis was named by Time Magazine as its “Person of the Year.”

It’s perhaps to no surprise. Who doesn’t like this Pope?

I like this Pope.

It feels like whenever I see something related to him in the news, a piece of me breathes out a sigh of relief… like he’s accomplishing something that people have been waiting to see happen for a long time.

As a confession, I’m a Protestant pastor today but I grew up seasonally Catholic. That means every Christmas and Easter (and sometimes for a season in between) during the majority of my childhood my family would roll into church to honor the traditions we felt we held to.

The problem with tradition is you sometimes feel like you’re missing something. Tradition itself reminds you of “something else” – so (by definition) there’s often a disconnect.

Then here comes this Pope who does things in the Way of Jesus that seem to reconnect those dots. It’s why so many Catholics and non-Catholics are cheering.

Again… who doesn’t love this Pope?

That’s what I’d actually like to ask a bit about.

popefrancisWe could talk a bit about what it would be like to have people in the average Protestant church make a poster with the pastor or youth pastor’s face on it… and wave it around the church on a Sunday.

How would that go over?

I don’t want to sideline my main question with this one, but it’s worth asking as a preface. Perhaps you remember how the youth pastor in the movie “SAVED” was portrayed?

So here’s the main question…

and remember… be nice…

Do you think Pope Francis is the person of the year…

  • Because of how He embodies Jesus Christ?
  • Because of how He embodies Jesus Christ in ways that are “nice” and universally accepted? 

I was inspired to ask that by a discussion among peers where one person offered:

In today’s world of instant communication and occasionally biased media coverage, the message we preach runs a greater risk of being distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects. In this way certain issues which are part of the Church’s moral teaching are taken out of the context which gives them their meaning. The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message.

Keep in mind, if you reply to this in a non-Christ-like way it sort of undermines your point.

That said, please share your opinions or convictions on this as I think there is much for us to uncover together. 

Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

9 responses to The Implications of a Pope being the Person of the Year?

  1. I’m glad you brought this up, because I’ve noticed how Pope Francis has captured the interest and attention of so many, including those who don’t really have strong beliefs, or any at all. I’m very interested to see what others think about why this is.

    My own impressions come from talking with friends, and from following a variety of online communities. What I see are people who are fascinated by a man high up in the Catholic hierarchy who not only delivers a message, but he seems to LIVE it, and this is crucial. He rejects opulent living in favor of a relatively modest home. He kisses the faces of the disfigured. He washes feet, literally. He calls people up on the phone, like a single woman who worried about being able to get her child baptized. There are rumors that he has gone out at night anonymously to help the poor, and whether this is true or not, many believe it because it just seems like that’s the kind of man he is. He walks the walk.

    As a Lutheran, many of my beliefs are quite different from those of Pope Francis. But I find I have tremendous respect and admiration for him just the same.

    • Tony Myles

      That’s great, Liz… and I honestly would love to hear more on how you as a Lutheran see this. I think your traditions are a step or two closer to the Catholic expression than what I’m used to, and I’ve always wondered how that plays out in terms of perception.

  2. As a Southern Baptist in upbringing and now Episcopalian, I crave leadership. Not the tele-evangelist leadership of this media age, but the leadership of a human man who embodies Christ in all that he does. I realize that we are not to follow a man in our religion (separating religion from faith as they aren’t the same), but I would convert to Catholicism because he is a leader I would wish to follow. He is human. Pope Francis reveals Christ’s heart through his actions and words. I completely agree with Liz above: “What I see are people who are fascinated by a man high up in the Catholic hierarchy who not only delivers a message, but he seems to LIVE it, and this is crucial.” And if we follow a man above our faith, we will be like those of the first church who followed John and followed Paul and were chastised for it.

    What I see is a man who embraces the beauty as well as the ugly of this world. He embodies grace and love and peace. I believe the fact of his being Pope is, for me, an afterthought. It is because he is Pope that he is garnering so much press. But I do not see that the title of “Person of the Year” is being bestowed to the Pope…it is be bestowed upon a man who is using his “job” to proclaim peace, reveal grace and humility, embrace this new age of technology. These behaviors seem to be WHO he is, not WHAT he does. He just, for me, happens to be Pope.

    For me, I believe he has earned this title because I think he would behave as he does whether he was Pope or just an ordinary man working two part time jobs and trying to make ends meet.

    And ultimately, I also believe he should be Person of the Year because he probably doesn’t give two whits about being named Person of the Year.

    • Tony Myles

      I have to admit – this is my favorite line in what you wrote: “And ultimately, I also believe he should be Person of the Year because he probably doesn’t give two whits about being named Person of the Year.” Amen!

  3. It has been my observation as a youth pastor, that students who grow up in a world of access tend to have better BS detectors. They know when something is a little off, and when something is just good. It is my humble opinion that the pope is saying and doing the things that everyone feels is right, but don’t know why.

    In our day and age it is rare to find a man with power and influence that also possesses a high moral conviction that seems to be based on love and compassion. I think is is because of this, people from all beliefs rally to the pope.

    I think the issue I have (and the one that sparked this article) is how people respond to this man. In our culture, when we see people do amazing things, we tend to take an audience mentality. We sit and watch actors, athletes and pastors, and we never get on the field. We raise them up, and praise their good deeds. I hope and pray that the pope’s life will inspire others to suit up and get in the game.

    • Tony Myles

      Ah, yes – teenagers really do smell out what is and isn’t present in people. That is, except when their mind is made up… try convincing them that their emotions aren’t as important as the truth. :)

      I like where you’re going with your comment. Maybe the best thing to come out of this is next year Time Magazine has too many options to choose from since one guy really did make a difference. The larger question is if secular good deeds help or hinder others taking that leap into faith with Jesus Christ… do we just applaud the great stuff and say, “I like that guy,” or do we ask, “How did he get there? What’s underneath his actions that I really need?”

  4. Hey. My name is Louie – a new Catholic Youth Minister at 22 years old. I am a regular reader of this blog. I do enjoy the blog as it helps me grow in my ministry.

    Going to be brief here. Overall, I am very excited to see that you guys, my brothers and sisters in Christ, are also generally excited by this year’s TIME Person of the Year. I have my reservations about the Church’s Vicar of Christ being named to such secular prestige but it is in the end a great witness to Pope Francis’ far reaching evangelization.

    I would like to present something/ask a question… I hear protestants, secular media, and EVEN Catholics speak as if no Pope let alone Catholic has ever lived such a life in the public eye. I believe that you alluded to this in your blog post… Could the expansion of Social Media in modern day society be playing heavily in Pope Francis’ favor? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Pope Francis and the work that he is doing!! But… there have living saints on this earth without Twitter accounts, Instagram, Facebook, and the Social Media Paparazzi following them around – i.e. Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Saint Maximillian Kolbe to name a few… If these saints had been around in the present Social Media crazed society, I wonder if they would have gotten similar if not GREATER attention? (I think this would have been the case with JP2, definitely and possibly Mother Teresa.) It just blows my mind that many protestants seems to dismiss the idea that there have been countless Catholic witnesses to Christ here on the Earth. Is it that there is little education in the protestant denominations of Christians in the Catholic Church? Or total lack thereof?

    Thanks for writing this blog. It is an excellent resource for Youth Ministry!!

    Also, I wanted to leave you with this. There are obviously many sore spots among protestants when talking about the Catholic Church… I really believe that most disagreements of protestants of born of misinterpretations and msconceptions… Please check out this amazing Catholic Apologetics Ministry – Catholic Answers. It’s seriously TOP OF THE LINE. I have a feeling you guys will learn we have WAY MORE IN COMMON than most would attest to. http://www.catholic.com/

    Advent Blessings be with you and your families.

    • Tony Myles

      Hi, Louie! I so appreciate your tone and thoughts here… incredibly edifying, even in how you’re appreciating the questions. I meant to prod this a bit, especially since even in Protestant circles a pastor can become a bit of a rockstar and soon Jesus is in the shadows. Truth be told, you’re spot on when you say that some of the greatest servants over the years would have likely been treated differently if they were in this era of image, social media and more.

      Thanks for also dropping the link to the Catholic Apologetics ministry. Love that you’re serving students and pray that you find fresh ways and ancient examples to bring them into a personal journey with Jesus Christ!

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