POPE FRANCIS, who was appointed head of the Catholic church in March, has inadvertently been causing waves on the Italian fashion scene. His humility and sobriety have apparently wooed some of the country’s most notable designers – from Fendi to Dolce & Gabbana – away from the country’s ostentatious signature fashion aesthetic.
“It’s a whole new spirit in Rome,” said Fendi co-designer Silvia Venturini Fendi. “This is evident when we have a new pope going back to real Christianity, which lately was far from the church. People are looking for meaning, and the real meaning of fashion is as a tool to express yourself. Sometimes fashion hides your language, but we look for meaning in materials and fabrics to allow true personality to come out.”
This continues the growing fascination the secular world had for Pope Francis. For example Sir Elton John calling him ‘a miracle of humility in an era of vanity.’
This is not going to be another “our last popes have been humble” too posts. Just a look at the attitudes of the secular world that find Pope Francis actions as what constitutes real humility. In a world of such materialistic consumption the Pope’s frugal use of resources provides a stark contrast. There is a natural attractiveness to this when people in relative materialist riches find that this is not enough. The Pope’s simplicity demonstrates that happiness is not tied to the quantity and quality of possessions.
He radiates a joy that people see as purely a result of this simplicity. As the fashion designer perceives as “back to real Christianity.” Aestheticism instead of the love of Jesus is conflated with what Christianity is all about. We know in our hearts we place too much faith in the passing things of the world. Still we can make the materialist scale tip the other way. To think that just a simplicity of less possessions is what would finally make us happy if only we embraced this. An aestheticism without love of God and neighbor and certainly not Christianity. Although often it is an attachement to things that is blocking our growing in love of God and neighbor.
Many of the Pope’s actions are rather striking. A love of “Lady Poverty” as a spiritual discipline and a path for sanctity is a path we would rather not tread. It can seem almost an indictment on our own worldliness. Yet as a spiritual discipline it can also both be a means of learning detachment while also providing an example to others as a secondary effect. It can seem confusing when the Pope chooses to use an older popemobile over a much newer one that was also a gift. You can wonder is this really a simplicity or something else? I come down on the side that it is both a desire for simplicity and secondarily as an example.
“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock, to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.” – Flannery O’Connor
How pertinent this quote is I can only guess, but the Pope’s simplicity is drawn large in context to today’s world. Yet most miss that his simplicity is way beyond the material in that he seeks and desires a simplicity in all things. He has had harsh words for clerics in regards to a lack of simplicity in a clericalism that concentrates itself in desiring a promising career. He sees structures that get in the way of the Gospel and the new evangelization. His desire to reform the Curia is not to have a more efficient bureaucracy, but to remove roadblocks from preaching Jesus Christ and his Church.
Back to this article that of course has a gratuitous swipe at Pope Benedict XVI.
The previous Pope had, in religious terms at least, a more flashy approach to dressing – reportedly a keen lover of Prada shoes and historic robes, headwear and capes. Italy’s new pontiff has actively discouraged his priests from being materialistic, urging them to drive “humble”, rather than “fancy” cars.
I guess we will never be rid of the Prada meme when in reality he shoes were made by Adriano Stefanelli, a cobbler in Novara, Italy.
From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn now to a consideration of activity, action.
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