Pope Francis’ great lesson in humility and wisdom

One year ago, I was installed as the eighth bishop of Denver.  It still feels like yesterday to me.  And when I was ordained a priest in 1976, I never imagined that one day I would become the archbishop of Denver.  I am deeply grateful for the welcome and support I’ve received during my year as Denver’s archbishop from the clergy and laity.

I am particularly grateful to my predecessor, Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.  Most people know that Archbishop Chaput is a great man—a visionary leader in the Church in the United States.  He is also a friend, and has been a mentor and teacher for me.

It is a rare privilege to follow after a great man.  I am blessed in Denver to follow the term of Archbishop Chaput.  And our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is blessed to follow the term of Pope Benedict XVI—a visionary leader, a great man, a leader and a teacher.

Because we have the privilege in common, I’ve watched to see how Pope Francis would relate to the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.  Two weeks ago, with the release of his first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis spoke clearly about his relationship with his predecessor.

When introducing the encyclical, Pope Francis noted that Pope Benedict himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. “For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own.”

Pope Francis wanted the world to know that “Lumen Fidei”began in the heart and mind of Pope Benedict XVI.  This was an act of deep and admirable humility.

In the modern world, we’re often encouraged to discount everything that is old.  We pursue the newest media, the newest cars, the newest technologies.  We are taught that ours is an age of unprecedented wisdom and potential, and we believe this, uncritically.  Too often, we forget the wisdom that comes from knowing our past.

Pope Francis’ encyclical rejects this modern paradigm.  From its outset, the Holy Father gives credit to the wisdom of his predecessors—to the traditions and ideas which came before him.  Pope Francis denied his ego, in order to remain connected to the wisdom of his predecessors.

The Holy Father’s decision was instructive.  Our call, as Catholics, is to draw from the sacred traditions of the Church, and the ancient deposit of our faith.  A deposit that can never change if we are to remain faithful to Jesus Christ—one that is best summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  With new methods, new enthusiasm, and new commitment, we present a truth which is timeless: that God is love, and that love is boundless self-sacrifice.  This truth can be found only in the person of Jesus Christ.

Too often, even in the Church, we reject what has come before us.  We become infatuated with the novel, because it is new.  Too often we lack the humility to admit the wisdom and truth of the past.  Pope Francis has demonstrated real humility.  I pray we will do the same.

“It is through the apostolic tradition,” said Pope Francis in “Lumen Fidei,” “preserved in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit that we enjoy a living contact” with the memory of Jesus Christ and his revelation.  May we have the humility to seek out tradition, to honor it and to carry it forward with courage, helping others to encounter the truth of Jesus Christ, for he alone can bring us happiness and peace.  For he is the Truth who will set us free (John 8:32; John 14: 6).

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.