By T.J. Burdick
Within the first month of Pope Francis’ papacy, this little gem began to make its rounds throughout the Catholic social media scene:
I must admit that I liked it. My only issue was that I couldn’t share it. I like my shares to be able to touch my religiously diverse audience in a way that they can all benefit from Catholic awesomeness, even if they aren’t Catholic. If I would have shared it, I would have gotten comments like:
“Shouldn’t your Pope have all three?”
“What about Love?”
“I don’t get it.”
And so, while watching my one year-old fling her spaghetti to-and-fro with her Dora the Explorer practice fork, a tri-papal cutlery epiphany occurred to me.
The Spoon: Pope John Paul II
The spoon is the most basic of all eating utensils. It is capable of grabbing the source of life sustenance, water. John Paul II spoon-fed the faithful with the essentials of Vatican II. He evangelized with his personality, multi-linguistic abilities and philosophical teaching style. He made himself accessible by globetrotting around the world, pastoring his flock by serving them the spiritual milk of his presence. We were his babies who drank it up.
The Fork: Pope Benedict XVI
When we grew up, we could no longer survive on milk alone. Benedict XVI came to the table with tongs, a $3,000 Master Chef grill and a match. He served the meat of the Catholic faith with all the seasoning that the magisterium could provide, complete with condiments. We, being the salt of the earth, added our own touch of flavor by catapulting Christ’s bride into the digital continent and serving hot dogs and hamburgers to our friends with every facebook account we opened.
Pope Benedict gave us the fork of faith that we needed to pierce the doubt within our hearts and consume the meat of the catechism.
The Spork: Pope Francis
For those who do not know what a “Spork” is, it is that little plastic eating tool you found inside of a small plastic bag alongside a thin straw and a folded napkin when you had hot lunch in elementary school. If you were homeschooled, a spork is a spoon-fork hybrid.
The spork is by far the most utile way to eat food. It pokes, gathers and satisfies. It is very basic in its plasticity, rarely will you ever find a silver spork. In fact, its rareness amongst the culinary arts makes it enigmatic, conflictive even. Could you imagine the criticism a 5-star restaurant would receive if they offered their guests one spork instead of three separate forks (one for salad, one for the main dish and one for God knows what else) and two spoons (one for soup, one for dessert)?
Pope Francis is the spork of our time. He is simple, useful and easy to understand. He is tremendously controversial for conservatives and the poor of the world welcome him with open arms. He piques the interest of non-believers and believers alike as JPII did and he can kindle the faith to the billions of Catholics through his actions with just as much effectiveness as B16 did through his written words.
Now this is something my facebook friends can relate to:
You might be asking yourself, “Hey, what about the knife?”
Jesus is the knife. He divides. He cuts the meat of our souls so we can nourish our spirits with His body and blood.
Like my one year-old, I need my mommy to use the knife to cut up my faith for me into bite sized pieces. When she’s done, I’ll be using my spork to eat it up.
TJ Burdick is the lead author of One Body, Many Blogs, Advice for Christian Bloggers. He is also a school teacher by trade, a lay Catholic by grace and a husband and father of two by vocation. He writes to help support Catholic charities and to put food on the table for his family as his teaching wages are very humble. When he is not enjoying time with his family, you can find him planning his next big lesson or locked inside an adoration chapel. Find more of his work at @ tjburdick.com.