14 Lessons We Can Take Home From Francis’s Visit

Now the Pope’s visit to the United States is 10 days old, I wanted to share the top lessons I saw. I had a special opportunity to be at many of his events when he was here and to watch some others on TV or YouTube Live Stream. The Pope had a lot of different messages. Here are 14 lessons that stand out.

#1. Each individual is a person worthy of respect.

This has been a constant theme of Pope Francis. In his visit to the US this was seen in several different examples. In his speech to Congress he talked about individuals not arguments and at the UN, he said persons not statistics. In action this was seen with the poor, disabled and prisoners, all of whom he treated as individuals. When addressing the UN workers, he pointed out the lowliest jobs not just the bigwigs.

#2. He wants us to go forth and reach out to others. At the canonization mass of St. Juniper Serra, Pope Francis talks about how he kept going forward and encouraged us to go forth. This theme of reaching out to others seem to be repeated throughout his visit. In this mass, the choice of various languages demonstrated this reaching out in action not just word.

We go forth in joy not obligation:

#3. The Bible Interprets the World. As Christians we don’t interpret the world and interpret the Bible using 2 separate standards but we interpret the world through the Bible. When Francis addressed Congress, he set all his remarks within a biblical framework.

#4. Love is a Miracle!

We can easily focus on extraordinary miracles and forget that the love of a family is the greatest miracle of all. In Philadelphia, Pope Francis wanted to remind us of this.


#5. Life Is an Inalienable Right.

Even though Pope Francis did not spend a lot of time expressly talk about abortion and euthanasia, he point out the positive that each person has a dignity that we have the duty to respect.

#6. We need to stay on the positive and not get bogged down with the negative. It’s amazing how Pope Francis manages to always stay positive when talking about the possibilities for evangelization or moral issues. I know it myself that I have a strong tendency to get bogged down in the negative. Here’s 2 example from his speech to Congress:

#7. We all have the strength to overcome our difficulties. Sometimes you can think that our sufferings will overwhelm us but we can always conquer because Christ is our strength. Only a week before the Pope came, this is 11-year old young man just to beat leukemia by 3.5 years of chemotherapy, and he traveled up from Texas to get a glance of him after he addressed Congress. This isn’t the Pope’s message but it’s an inspiration for us like the Pope.

And the Holy Father pointed out that our strength comes from prayer:

#8. Religion has a priority in society. So often today people think that religion is a mere accidental add-on to the rest of life but Pope Francis clearly brought out that religion is a central part of culture not an add-on. He pointed out that faith is the source of so many values even secular people cherish:

He pointed out private practice is insufficient:

And others recognized how he was redefining it:

Here’s a line I quoted from an op-ed where the author understood the Pope’s mission.

#9. Build a culture of solidarity. Francis continual goes out to encounter people but his encounter is not a mere meeting but something establishes solidarity between him and the one he meets. When speaking to Catholic Charities, he encouraged all of us do similarly:

#10. Our true joy comes from Christ.

Pope Francis has mentioned on a few occasions that our true joy comes from Christ. This photo, from his vespers in New York, expresses that reality well. Many people seemed to recognize this reality because this was my most popular tweet from his whole visit (despite the fact I made an error: “The Joy of the Gospel” is technically an apostolic exhortation not an encyclical).

And he explained this later in New York:

#11. Family life has special value.

Pope Francis said that the main purpose of his visit to the United States was to strengthen family life. The whole World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia was about that. Francis is very down to earth when speaking about marriage and the family but isn’t afraid to point out when government goes against the family.

#12. The Church has continuity. Many people I spoke to liked what was new with Pope Francis but in this visit he did tended to emphasize continuity over newness. We can see this in references he made to previous speech at the UN, in his use of “the new Moses” which was made famous by Pope Benedict, and in the choice of using Latin and singing the Mass traditionally.

#13. We are all important in the Church.

So often lay people can consider themselves second-class Catholics but this is not the case. The whole idea behind the World Meeting of Families is that families are valuable. Pope Francis pointed this out directly a few times.

#14. Humility. One thing we always see with Pope Francis is that he does not consider himself the greatest but sees the value of each person. Before the World Meeting of Families he sent out a short 30-second video in which he said that he would be there because all of us would be there, not vice versa. And here’s another sign of his humility:

Notes: I based this list on the parts of his trip that I experienced; anybody’s list is going to be based on their experience. Many of my tweets were produced live with the event and at times captured a summary of what Francis said and not a direct quote (and even if I direct quote, I have good enough Spanish to do a personal translation though that may not match the official translation).

Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC

Teens need to experience Christ. I am a Catholic religious priest with the Legion of Christ who tries to help them do that. Part of doing that is running this blog. Currently I'm stationed in the DC Metro area preparing material for RCSpirituality.org (Regnum Christi Spirituality Center), studying an advanced Theology degree, and helping youth ministry freelance.


Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC


Teens need to experience Christ. I am a Catholic religious priest with the Legion of Christ who tries to help them do that. Part of doing that is running this blog. Currently I'm stationed in the DC Metro area preparing material for RCSpirituality.org (Regnum Christi Spirituality Center), studying an advanced Theology degree, and helping youth ministry freelance.



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