The Holy Father gave a humdinger of a sermon this morning in the chapel of the Domus Sancta Marthae where he now lives. Every morning he offers Mass for various groups - a lovely gesture. And preaches at every Mass - if he was in Ireland he'd be lynched. Blessed John Paul used to have groups for Mass up in the Papal Apartment, Pope Benedict usually offered Mass for the Papal Family and friends. It's all fine and good, every Pope is different.
In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world. He said that if you were looking for martyrs you need not go to the catacombs or the Colosseum, but there were plenty of martyrs today in many countries. He then became even more explicit: there are Christians who cannot even carry a cross without being punished. Now lest we run away with ourselves and lament the persecution of Christians under Islam - and it is happening, the West needs also to examine its conscience. How many secular, "tolerant" societies do not allow Christians to display the cross or to wear it in public?
And lest we Catholics get too righteous: How many Catholic institutions have removed symbols of our faith in order to be more "open" or "less offensive"? How many Catholic institutes of learning forbid priests, religious and seminarians from wearing their habits or clerical garb? I know of one institute in Dublin where new students were told to remove their religious clothing so as not to offend lay students. I was a postulant at the time so had no habit to wear while I was there, but I noted with glee an African Capuchin and a Latin American nun who flouted the rule and wore their habits. They had a hard time of it.
Pope Francis is giving us a lot to think about it, and unlike Benedict who in his gentleness sometimes presented the truth in beauty and diplomacy, Francis just goes for the jugular. By the time this Holy Father goes to his eternal reward (a long time from now I pray), we'll have darkened the doors of the confessional many, many times. He is a walking examination of conscience.