A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A new Pope and a new Prince

by Fr Kevin Head

by Fr Kevin Head sm

The birth of a child is always a miracle of God’s creation in which to rejoice. Prince George Alexander Louis is no exception, of course, and people of good will everywhere welcomed his arrival and wished him and his parents well.

About 43 babies every 10 seconds were born on the same day as Prince George, roughly 367,000 children in all.

None of these 367,000 non-royal lives is any less valuable or less wonderful in God’s eyes than is the life of Prince George.

UNICEF estimates that 24,000 of those born on the same day as the new prince will not live to the age of five. One of those children will die about every three seconds, most of them from preventable diseases. Many of those who survive their first five years will live their lives in desperate poverty.

Pope Francis has been very clear about the fact that the situation of so many children born into poverty and starvation is despicable and shameful:

‘Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons’ (Zenit, 07 June 2013).

Pope & baby

The Telegrah UK

The Pope had arrived in Brazil by the time Prince George was born. Pope Francis was received there at least as enthusiatically as the new royal baby. His very presence seems to give people a sense of wellbeing, makes them smile and brings them hope.

Just as his predecessors have done, Francis challenges us to change our hearts, to be better. He calls us to ‘spirituality, generosity, solidarity, perseverance, fraternity, joy … values whose deepest root is in the Christian faith’.

He leaves us in no doubt, simply by the way he is, that to be better is possible, and he states very clearly that part of being better involves doing whatever we are able to do to ease the burden of those that live in poverty and hunger:

‘Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?’ (ibid).

In challenging us to change of heart, ‘to become a little poorer’ for the sake of those less fortunate than we are, Pope Francis in a certain sense calls us back to our first innocence. Babies do that too. That’s one of the reasons babies are so attractive, I think – they are so obviously innocent.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it in these terms: ‘Man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams. Now, the world would be insane and rabid, if these disorganisations should last for hundreds of years. It is kept in check by death and infancy. Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise’ (Nature, 1836). 

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