Maybe it’s not proper to reference a Salt-N-Pepa lyric from 1993 as a headline when talking about Pope Francis, but—ahem, true confession—the song was the first thing that popped into my head when I heard he was humble enough to perform the sacrament of reconciliation personally at the three-day Jubilee for Boys and Girls event in Rome in April.
“What a man, what a man, what a man/What a mighty good man” rolled through my mind as I read how he sat alone—with minimal security—in a simple black chair in St. Peter’s Square along with 150 priests to take 16 teenagers’ confessions. Because nothing this pope has done has been expected or traditional (washing the feet of Muslim and women refugees, kissing a modern-day leper, speaking out against Donald Trump on his proposed wall along the U.S./Mexico border), I figured he wouldn’t mind if I used a rap song to describe how I felt about his actions—especially since a video message from him was broadcast at a rock and rap concert in Stadio Olimpico, also as part of Jubilee.
This being our annual Youth Issue, his example of reaching young people in an unorthodox, personal way felt apropos and a teaching moment to shake up our own long-held conventions. Clutching an iPhone, the 79-year-old told the crowd of about 70,000 teenagers in Vatican City that “[happiness] is not an app you download on a mobile phone” and urged them to “always be sure to go where there is a network: family, parish, school.” Using ideas and terms the device-obsessed crowd was familiar with, Pope Francis urged them to plug in and connect with their faith.
Connect to faith—funny, that’s our mission too.