Rewriting Pope Francis

I’m not normally a fan of dumbing down language, but I think there are some areas where clear and concise communication can be useful.

Religious instruction, for example.

I’m trying to read the “Year of Mercy” Companion every morning (don’t ask me how ‘religious’ I’ve been about it. As with my actual religious faith, sometimes I’ve been more successful with this commitment than others).

I thought I might start tearing out the pages that inspire me and pinning them to the fridge so that the rest of the family can stumble across them.

But, when I read this morning’s except from Misericordia Vultus, I really struggled to understand it. I can’t imagine it would hold the interest of an 11 year old boy (or a 48 year old boy, for that matter).

So I tried to rewrite it in more accessible language. It was an interesting exercise for me, and I’m going to record what I did here. I know I’m on shaky theological ground here, but I wish someone more qualified had done the translation in a  more accessible way.

Here’s the original:

The Church lives an authentic life when she…proclaims mercy—the most stupendous attribute of…the Redeemer—and when she brings people close to the sources of the Savor’s mercy…

It is precisely because sin exists in the world…that God, who is love, cannot reveal himself otherwise than as mercy. This corresponds…to the whole interior truth of man and of the world which iceman’s temporary homeland. Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to his home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son.

No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and Resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Confession to God also consists in discovering his mercy….Authentic knowledge of the God of mercy, the God of tender love, is a constant and inexhaustible source of conversion…as a permanent attitude, as a state of mind.

See what I mean? Apart from the twisted sentence structure, the bigger problem is that uses jargon, it is written for a very specialized audience, who understands what “the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son” is, and who doesn’t have to search their memory of childhood catechism lessons (if they were lucky enough to have had them) for what the precise definition of ‘conversion’ is.

I understand that “cannot reveal himself otherwise than as mercy” has a certain emphatic ring that “can only reveal himself as mercy” lacks, but it’s also hopelessly convoluted. And I speak as someone who loves a long sentence.

So here’s my attempt to write this more accessibly.

The most astonishing thing about Jesus is His mercy. That is what we, the people of the Church, must be all about. Mercy.

God is love. This world—our temporary home—is full of sin and temptation. The only way He can show Himself to us here, is through mercy.

God is infinite (unending, everywhere and everywhen). So is His mercy. He is always ready to forgive the prodigal child who comes home. We can’t wear him out. The sacrifice of His son is the proof. We can’t change that.

We can refuse his mercy, though. If we can look at Jesus on the cross and say ‘no’ to mercy and forgiveness, we are not walking with God.

The Church’s message is, “Walk with God. Live an authentic Christian life.”

God is mercy. God is an inexhaustible source of tender love. He offers us all the tools we need to accept his invitation to walk with Him.

Accepting Him is a decision we must make all day, every day, with his help. Luckily, we can’t wear out God’s mercy. He is always there, offering us his hand.

That’s my interpretation, anyway.

And that’s a God—and a Church—that, even on my worst day, I could believe in.

One thought on “Rewriting Pope Francis

  1. f macd

    That, right there, is what my (innovative) Translation Methodology class tried to get us to realise in 1987. I grant you, even the course name could have had the same principles applied to it. Know your audience.

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