At first, he stood in the doorway. Stoic. Peaceful. Then, after a moment, stepped forward. Deliberate. Gentle. Next, a wave. Inviting. Gracious. And then he disappeared.
The five seconds that I saw Pope Francis last week were significantly less graceful on my end. I was on my tiptoes, craning over six rows of faces plastered to a café window across the street from where Francis was set to emerge.
My mind jumped back to Sunday School. This must have been what it was like in the crowds following Jesus (minus the free food). And as Francis quickly disappeared from view, I stepped away with a smile on my face, two grainy iPhone photos, and a feeling in my gut that I couldn’t quite explain.
Rarely a moment passed last week in our newsroom when someone’s TV wasn’t humming with the Pope’s gentle, deliberate words or an email wasn’t coming through with another moment that prompted a thoughtful pause.
Why does Francis immediately welcome a small girl to him when his security stands in the way? Why does he pass up lunch with the top legislators in the country to eat with people who don’t have a home? Why does he abruptly stop his motorcade to bless a sick child on the way to the airport?
And why don’t I do this? Why do I rush past the hurting acquaintance to pursue my own, obviously-way-more-important list of tasks? Why do I ignore people unless they can someday be useful to me? Why can’t I sit with a friend and cry with them instead of rushing to fix and move on?
How does Pope Francis make it look so easy? Doesn’t he know that normal people like us so obviously could never live a life like that?
Day after day, the actions of Pope Francis nudged at me and called me to be a better person. To live with integrity. To, quite literally, practice what we preach.
It’s an old concept that still—er, especially—matters today.
For Christians, living with integrity means living into the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our new identities as his redeemed people through his selflessness and love. And the example of Francis points to a very deep understanding of this purpose—beyond the waving crowds and the television cameras.
The humble example of Francis shows us how to completely own our mission. Francis is fully present in each moment, asking how he can serve his purpose with each step. The person of Francis—a loving welcome and a joyful smile—actually came to embody God’s grace for so many.
His example also shows us tough love. This happens best in covenant, when relationship and identity are not at stake. Disagreement does not mean disrespect. Francis took courage to name what he believes is right while knowing that his audience would not agree. Integrity does not always garner universal praise.
And Francis invites us not only to admit our own mistakes, but also the sins of our institutions. Francis sat with victims of sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Living with humility calls us to the role of reconciliation for the marginalized and the hurting in our congregations and in the worldwide church.
Of course, a humble life of integrity is not something that magically happens as soon as you become the Pope. There’s no doubt that Francis has been living and learning in this lifestyle of integrity for decades.
So we start now. One moment at a time we move toward integrity. One five-second, neck-craning, tiptoeing, face-plastering, not-so-graceful moment at a time.
Ryan Struyk (’14) graduated from Calvin with majors in political science and mathematics. He currently covers the 2016 elections for abc News in Washington. He’s also done political polling in New York City and reported on the Idaho state legislature for the Associated Press in Boise. In his free time, Ryan enjoys talking about inferential statistics, music theory, and his beloved Detroit Tigers.