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Jerry Earl Johnston: My quest for quotes from the new pope

Published: Saturday, Jan. 4 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014.

Andrew Medichini, AP

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Some people collect stamps.

Some collect thimbles.

I collect little quotes from the new pope, Pope Francis I.

And these days, his comments are showing up everywhere.

You can usually spot them. They glimmer like flakes of gold in a pan of gravel, like a gold coin in the mouth of a fish.

He's determined to shake things up and say things people will remember.

Some claim that great institutions — such as the Catholic Church — are like battleships. Turning them takes a long, long time and lot of effort.

Apparently this pope has never read the battleship handbook.

He seems convinced the church can pivot like a basketball star. And he sets himself up as an example of how it should be done.

I like the way Pope Francis distinguishes between the spiritual disciplines and standing on ceremony. He has a gift for separating style from substance, of sifting hollow formalism for kernels of spiritual truth.

He seems to be saying the church was made for the people, people weren’t made for the church.

For example, here's a glittery nugget about the role of church that I found while reading a recent New Yorker profile piece about the man:

“We want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep.”

Later in the article he says, “There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost their value or meaning. The view of the Church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or understandings is wrong.”

It takes a big person to diminish his own clout — and the clout of his predecessors — because he believes truth always trumps personal prestige.

I also read, in Time magazine, that this pope sees the church as a field hospital — a M*A*S*H unit. He said: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined.”

These are the kinds of ideas that can shift paradigms. Unlike in the past, where pontiffs tended to “pontificate,” Francis hopes to simply communicate.

In my “quote quest,” I came across a pocket-sized book called “Through the Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections” (One Sunday Visitor, $16.95). It is a collection that offers a papal insight for each day. Let me end with what he has to say about older folks — people my age:

“Sometimes, it seems to me, that, in our relationships with children and young people, we are like adults who abandon and disregard these little ones because they reveal our bitterness and our failure to accept old age.… We abandon them to the care of the cold and passive anonymity of modern technologies. We set aside our care for them, and we even imitate them, because we do not want to accept our place as adults.”

Zing.

There are dozens of other quotes to share, of course. But that’s enough fiber for now.

I’ll share more insights from Pope Francis in a future column.

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com

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