“There are those heroes of classical antiquity who, like Odysseus of Greek myth and Cú Chulainn of Celtic legend, are humans who overcome inconceivable odds. What about a hero who is simply a man, walking amid other men, who neither flies nor faces a cyclops, who is neither skilled in the marital arts, nor inspires such fear that his enemies would even fear approaching him after his death? How do we make sense of a hero outside of such a narrative?
The truth may well be simply in that great quest for integrity, in that great existential pull that each of us, believer and nonbeliever alike, feel. The answer may be that in Pope Francis many of us see what we hope to be ourselves. Not the pope, not a bishop, not a religious figure, but a man who is radically free because he is a man of radical integrity. We see in Pope Francis a man who is radically courageous because he is not afraid to admit his faults, but all the more not afraid to pull us forward in his own attempts to be free down to the very fundament of his being. This is not the übermensch of Nietzsche, nor is it even the existential knight of faith of Kierkegaard. In Francis we see something that we can all hope to reasonably obtain, not an ideal, not a theory, but a man who is radically free, joyful but substantive, and a populist who is not afraid to be intelligent. In short, in Pope Francis we see a man who is, at least as far as we have seen, radically, courageously and unabashedly human. Being himself has made him a hero. For those of us who struggle often enough simply to be ourselves, it has made him someone who gives us hope.”
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