The Papal Playlist

Five songs to help you prepare for the visit of Pope Francis, and live differently after he leaves

By Jonathan Lewis Published on September 17, 2015

As the visit of Pope Francis to the United States fast approaches, here are five songs that are inspired by the advice we can expect to hear from him, and can encourage us to live better lives long after he leaves.

Lesson #1: Slow Down

Song: Inaudible Melodies by Jack Johnson

 Slow down everyone you’re moving too fast / Frames can’t catch you when you’re moving like that.

Slowing down is about taking the time to be truly present to the people you are with and open to the encounter that each moment provides. It can sometimes feel like an accelerating hamster-wheel of expectations and frenetic activity drives American culture, especially in cities like New York City and Washington, DC. We are so over programmed that we can too easily miss beautiful moments right in front of us.

Pope Francis will have none of it. He isn’t fast-paced, he’s faith-paced. He’s attentive to the opportunities to encounter those that God has placed in his way. He slows down to embrace children, the elderly, the disabled, and the disfigured. The same should be true for us.

Lesson #2: Expect Change

Song: Change by Tracy Chapman

How bad how good does it need to get? / How many losses how much regret? / What chain reaction / What cause and effect / Makes you turn around / Makes you try to explain / Makes you forgive and forget / Makes you change

Much discussion will be given to the important talks given by Pope Francis at the White House, the joint meeting of Congress, and the United Nations, yet it is important to remember that Pope Francis primary role is as a pastor not a politician.

And like a good pastor, Francis won’t just comfort the afflicted, he’ll afflict the comforted. His comments in United States should challenge everyone.

All of us should expect to be challenged about our spiritual lives. If we are never challenged to change, we are left worshiping a self-made God. If the Pope leaves and you aren’t challenged to  live a more holy life, you might be doing it wrong. 

Lesson #3 Commit to Concrete Action

Song: Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson

If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change. 

In his very first interview as Pope, Francis begin by describing himself as “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” He understands that all systemic change starts with personal responsibility and a personal encounter. His recent request that every parish and religious house in Europe adopt a refugee family is a perfect example of his commitment to the idea that every issue, no matter the size or scope, requires a concrete and personal human response.

In the U.S. he will talk about creating a culture of encounter that does not allow widespread cultural anonymity for immigrants, the unborn, and the materially poor to continue.

His challenge will be less legislative and more personal, encouraging all people to be courageous and do something concrete to make the world a better place. Following his lead, the Archdiocese of Washington is encouraging all people to imitate his example and “Walk with Francis” by choosing to pray, serve or act in a new way that challenges us in a concrete way.

Lesson #4: Live Simply

Song: American Dream by Switchfoot

When success is equated with excess / The ambition for excess wrecks us / As the top of the mind becomes the bottom line /When success is equated with excess

Pope Francis  lives outside the details of American electoral politics and seeks to focus on the guiding principles of the Gospel. More than proposing policy, Pope Francis is inviting each of us to live more simply.

Living simply means reflecting on what is most important in our lives and getting rid of the clutter — even clutter we prefer. Donating the money you would normally spend on that latte or pair of shoes puts us in solidarity with those in our own country and throughout the world that go without basic necessities that are owed to them.

Far from limiting our freedom, living simply makes us more free by helping us de-clutter our lives physically, emotionally and spiritually to focus on the things and people that matter most.

Lesson #5: Share Joy

Song: Happy by Pharrell Williams

Here come bad news talking this and that / Yeah, give me all you got, don’t hold back / Yeah, well I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine / Yeah, no offense to you don’t waste your time / Here’s why / Because I’m happy

Above all, Pope Francis is coming to visit the U.S. as a witness to joy, to remind each of us that we are loved, and that “with Jesus there is true joy.”

With so many poignant examples of violence, depression, and racism in our country and across the world Pope Francis comes to bring tender and confident hope for a better way of life outside of the traps of secularism, materialism and relativism that we subconsciously fall into.

His joy is contagious and is rooted in his strong faith in Jesus. He challenges us to infect others with the joy of the Gospel by being missionaries of joy in our daily lives.

What would be in your papal playlist? Let us know in the comments section.


Jonathan Lewis is the Director of Evangelization, Youth and Young Adult Initiatives for the Archdiocese of Washington, and an Associate with Catholic Voices USA.

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