The Personalist Project

When an editor at the National Catholic Register asked me to write an article expanding on my short post about the Synod, I came up with a long list of Pope Francis's words and themes that strike me as conspicuously personalist. I wanted to show, pace the anxieties of the traditionalists, how consistent he is with his two great predecessors, and really with all the post-conciliar popes.

I only managed to develop one of those points: the emphasis on receptivity. I never got to the way he proposes love and service in place of the power dynamics of the fall; the way he focuses on the affirmation of the good as opposed to condemnation of the bad; I hardly mentioned the imagery of embodiment, the importance of vulnerability, and so forth.

But I at least said something to indicate how misunderstood I think he has been, and why this is bad, not just for the Church as a whole, but for our own souls. The Pope is asking for a response of love and faith, and too many are instead responding with scorn and skepticism. This is spiritual poison.

Comments (6)

Fr. Michael Najim

#1, Nov 6, 2014 10:30pm


I was edified by your article. Spot on! Like Francis once said, I am a son of the Church. But I've been greatly discouraged by the lack of receptivity, even resistance, on the part of some "traditionalists" to our Holy Father's words and sentiments. He is attempting to stretch our hearts and to encourage us not to be afraid to personally enter into the wounds and sufferings of people. It's easy to hide behind dogma and therefore not be vulnerable in receiving people's pain. But we must be like Christ encountering the woman at the well: we must enter into their pain, journey with them, and lead them to the splendor of truth. 

As a priest, I continue to be inspired and challenged by Pope Francis. He is a gift! 

Fr. Michael Najim

Katie van Schaijik

#2, Nov 6, 2014 10:32pm

Oh, thank you, Father! It consoles me to hear that someone else sees it just as I do.

John Janaro

#3, Nov 6, 2014 11:05pm

I think you are very right here, and also at the Register. Your article there was beautiful, and the angry attacks against the Pope in the comments section only confirm for me that there is a spiritual poison at work here. May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to His work within the Church.

Katie van Schaijik

#4, Nov 6, 2014 11:19pm

John, thank you too! I know from reading your book that you have entered into the mystery of human suffering in our age and found God there. I so wish more of our generation could come to see that's that's where He actually is! That's where hope and joy are too. 

I understand the temptation to hold suffering and ugliness at arm's length. I, too, have felt the dread and smelled the stench and wanted to hide in a closet till it's gone. Poor world.

I am so grateful for this Pope. I really loved JP II and B16 both. To me, God seems to be compensating us for the miseries of our time with especially wonderful Popes.

Fr. Michael Najim

#5, Nov 7, 2014 5:02pm


Some of the comments on your article are not of the Holy Spirit. It's so sad that people aren't grasping the heart of his words. Read his homily from yesterday. He constantly challenges and inspires me!

Katie van Schaijik

#6, Nov 8, 2014 10:11am

Thank you for that link, Fr. Michael! What a gift we have in him! 

I can't resist the impression that one of the great goods of his papacy is exactly the exposure of the hardness of our hearts—the hidden phariseeism in and among us. We are used to thinking of ourselves as the good guys in the culture wars. It is very wholesome for us to learn how far we are from holiness.

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