Pope Francis is the master of repetition. I say this with admiration, not rancour. When he was first elected I would listen to every word and ensure I had saved all the texts of his homilies etc. I still try and listen to every word, but now Vatican Radio has an archive of all his speeches and, more importantly, he himself repeats and reinforces themes and sayings he has used before. So now I can remember them and not worry I will miss some pearl of wisdom.
I have always considered consistency to be the most important quality in a parent when bringing up children. Repetition is close to consistency, especially in the context of Francis’ teaching. There is no confusion. His messages are clear and simple, yet profound.
Commentators say his use of three points is very ‘Jesuit’. While I am sure that may well contribute, and I appreciate he has been an Ignatian spiritual director and a teacher of novices, importantly he has also been a bishop for many years. He has visited slums regularly. He talks of doing simple catechesis before the sacraments of baptism and first communion. He knows how to teach, and how to appeal to children. We saw that in his spontaneous talk to the first-communion children at the parish of Ss Elizabeth and Zachariah in Rome, and later when he visited the Living Nativity Scene. There is so much depth in the simple message he conveys and the novel way he has of looking at the scriptures.
Thomas Casey SJ says ‘Francis has spoken so much about mercy that many of us are beginning to realise the obvious – mercy is at the heart of Christianity’. His repetition of this important quality of Jesus’ message, works by bringing it home to us, allowing us to rediscover the beauty of the Gospel message.
And so Francis repeats his messages, because they are important. The two examples that stand out for me are the image of the ever-forgiving God who is just waiting for us to ask for forgiveness; and the three magic words we need to use at home in our families – please, thank you and sorry.
When I first heard these messages I was enchanted. When I heard them again, I realised even more that I must incorporate them into my daily life. Their relevance became ever clearer.
If we all asked God for forgiveness and were kind and considerate at home, the world would instantly be a better place and, I suspect, God, as well as Francis, would be smiling.