The Sights and Sounds of Pope Francis’ Election – A Primer on Catholic Identity

Pope FrancisThe election of Pope Francis last month provided the world with what can be called a “primer” on Catholic identity. The images from St. Peter’s Square leading up to and including the introduction of Pope Francis were rich but often subtle…too subtle for the media to catch and articulate.

In my book, Practice Makes Catholic, I identify 5 characteristics of Catholic identity:

  1. A Sense of Sacramentality – making the intangible, tangible; the invisible, visible (signs, symbols, and rituals)
  2. A Commitment to Community – not a “me and God” but a “we and God” experience.
  3. A Respect for the Dignity of Human Life and a Commitment to Social Justice – a radical inseparability between love of God and love of neighbor
  4. A Reverence for Tradition – drawing from our rich treasure of “heirlooms.”
  5. A Disposition of Faith and Hope and Not Despair – not pollyannish but confident hope

Each of these was represented in abundance as the media brought us the sights and sounds of the introduction of our new Holy Father, the first Jesuit pope. Here are links to media images that are powerful examples of the Catholic sensibility.

  1. A Sense of Sacramentality
  2. A Commitment to Community
  3. A Respect for the Dignity of Human Life and a Commitment to Social Justice
  4. A Reverence for Tradition
  5. A Disposition of Faith and Hope and Not Despair
About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


  1. I’m sorry Joe, but this ‘Catholic identity’ thing is way over the top. One has a Catholic faith, or not. ‘Catholic identity’ is about ‘cultural identity’ and smacks of cultural chauvanism…. I hope you give some thought to this. Under the phrase ‘Catholic identity’ the cultural pieties of certain peoples will be held up as the only acceptable model of Catholicism… and only certain political perspectives will be associated with this ‘Catholic identity.’ I hope you’ll do some surfing around the web plunking in ‘Catholic identity’ and see how exclusive and exclusionary it is being used.

    • Chris, I have one simple question for you then: what makes faith “Catholic?” If you either have “Catholic faith or not,” what defines it as Catholic?

  2. Thank you for sharing this Joe! I remembered the time when Pope Francis first stepped out from the red curtain as the new Pope. It was a glorious day and a wonderful celebration of faith.

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