One of my regular early morning highlights is the Christchurch Press cryptic crossword. Some mornings, like this morning, I complete the puzzle without hesitating. On other days a few challenging clues keep me preoccupied all day, then suddenly, in an unlikely moment, the right word becomes obvious. Cryptic crosswords help me to start each day thinking laterally.
I doubt that the pope does a daily cryptic crossword at breakfast. These cryptic word puzzles had their origin in the UK, are hardly known in the US, and I don’t think they have made it across the language barrier into the pope’s spanish or italian languages. But if Pope Francis does discover them, I suspect he would be very good at them.
I’m thinking this because he is clearly a lateral thinker, someone who is able to think “outside the square.” Pope Francis has gone further to apply his lateral thinking to dioceses and parishes. He even asked the young people returning home after the Rio World to return to their dioceses and parishes to “make a mess, to disturb complacency“. Daily Francis’ words, actions and decisions show evidence of one who constantly thinks laterally in order to open new pathways for the gospel and for the church.
The pope well knows that his curia, and a local diocese or parish can become very complacent. It is a standard joke among priests that a common opposition to a new idea in a parish is that we can’t do that, because we have never done it before!
Let’s take heart from Pope Francis who daily does things that popes have never done before. Let’s pray that we have the courage to think more laterally and act outside the squares in the challenges that face us in our local churches.