James Joyce, the noted Irish writer of the early twentieth century, has a character in his novel Finnegans Wake who is referred to as “HCE.” I am not going to attempt to analyze Finnegans Wake here; anybody familiar with the book even by reputation will know what an exercise in futility that would be. I mention the book because there is a line of interpretation that expands “HCE” to “Here Comes Everybody,” not a single character but a representative of the mixed multitude of Joyce’s Irish society. This is also, in many interpretations, a statement about the Catholic Church, whose universality, its catholicity, extends to all sorts of people, especially in a society like 1900s Ireland in which the practice of Catholicism had strong social and political pressures backing it up. Joyce was irreligious but strongly culturally Catholic and often dealt with Catholic issues in his fiction.

Pope Francis has a “Here Comes Everybody” approach to Catholicism. To allude to a somewhat crass American proverb, there are few if any categories of people whom he would rather have outside the tent than inside. Even the traditionalists who take such strong exception to his papacy have seen at least some effort to woo them back into the fold; I would certainly rather be an SSPX priest after 2016 than without, with faculties to hear confessions and solemnize marriages for souls under my care. Yet Francis seeks to achieve this without force. This is wise considering what has happened in societies like Ireland or Quebec where there was in the past an element of coercion in the apparently strong and uniform Catholic piety of the people. The Church in those societies abused its privileges and took for granted its central position in the social architecture, with predictable and understandable backlash once social and cultural conditions changed.

It’s in this spirit of a non-coercive, ebullient “Here Comes Everybody” that Pope Francis yesterday addressed the young people gathered for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. From Vatican News:

Christ’s Church, the Pope continued, is “the community of the called,” not a community of the best people; rather, we are all sinners, all called “as we are, with our problems and limitations.” We are, he said,  “a community of brothers and sisters of Jesus, sons and daughters of the same Father. I want to be very clear with you.”

Pope Francis insisted, “There is room for everyone in the Church,” adding that Jesus expressed this clearly in the Gospels in parables where all are called: “the young and old, the healthy and the sick, the righteous and sinners: everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone!” And he invited the crowd to repeat after him, “Everyone, everyone, everyone!”

As Pope Francis added, this call comes with a warning: ““There is no future in a world without God.” How true this is. It is the universal call to holiness taught by Vatican II: Here Comes Everybody, but “here” must be the place where God has called us to be.

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Nathan Turowsky is a native New Englander and now lives in Upstate New York. A lifelong fascination with religious ritual led him into first the Episcopal Church and then the Catholic Church. An alumnus of Boston University School of Theology and one of the relatively few Catholic alumni of that primarily Wesleyan institution, he is unmarried and works in the nonprofit sector. He writes at Silicate Siesta.

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