by Ken Rolheiser
Pope Francis’ self image and our wrinkles

One morning a young woman saw her neighbour hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean,” she said. “She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, but remained silent. For many days that followed the young woman made similar comments.

One month later the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: “Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.” The husband said, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”

Pope Francis recalls an event about how we see beauty in ourselves: “I remember the actress Anna Magnani (1908 - 1973). One time, when she wasn’t young anymore, they told her that she should have her wrinkles removed so she could be more successful in cinema. And she said, ‘No, no, no! It took me many years to get these wrinkles. I’m not going to touch them.’ They were like a treasure for her,” Pope Francis related.

Pope Francis at 81 years was asked what image he has of himself. The pontiff answered by explaining his daily method for not falling into vanity and narcissism. He warned against the danger of evaluating ourselves based on what he called the “mirror assessment.”

“Dealing with the issue of image, there’s always a kind of confusion… We have an image of ourselves. But when the mirror starts to be part of your life, you begin to dialogue with the mirror in an attitude that is almost—or completely—narcissistic and you end up with a pathology of self-referentiality.”

Using our mirror image as a self reference can mislead us. “I think we have to be very careful when we seek to judge or assess ourselves—very careful not to fall into ‘mirror assessment.’ It’s going to deceive us; it’s always going to deceive us!”  Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis suggests we look inside ourselves daily. Then we judge ourselves on the basis of what we do or the attitudes we have. As a Jesuit, Pope Francis does a daily examination of conscience using the following guideline:
1. Put yourself in God’s presence. Giving thanks for God’s immense love.
2. Pray for the grace of understanding how God is acting in your life.
3. Review what happened during your day. Remember specific moments and your feelings during those moments.
4. Reflect on what you did, said, and thought at those moments. Did they draw you closer to or away from, God.
5. Think about upcoming events, and how you can collaborate more effectively with God’s plan. Possibly, make a specific resolution, and conclude with an “Our Father.”

There is much we can learn from the Pope’s self image: “I think I am a sinner whom God has loved very much, and continues to love. But my complete concrete image is something I find day by day looking at how I behave, the decisions I make, the mistakes I make … and it’s an image that progresses, as life progresses.”

The Pope invites us to “accept… the image of our successes, our failures, the image of our health and sickness, the image of a short life and of a long life. Accept the image of each day, and correct what we can.” (from Aleteia December 19, 2017)

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