Thursday, March 14, 2013

Habemus Papam


I am a big enough man to admit that my prediction was wrong. Malachy did predict that this pope would come in during turbulent times for the church - I don't think I need to go into detail here. He also said that this pope will "pasture his sheep". Cardinal Bergoglio has been a huge proponent of the care of the poor and I'm sure will continue to be, as he took the name Francis. But sorry, Malachy, I can't find anything that makes me think he could be "Peter the Roman", although I'm sure there are already conspiracy theory types and apologists hatching explanations to explain how this still fits into the papal prophecy. But back to the more important item. Habemus Papam! We have a Pope! I think the popular assumption has been that this pope's name is reflective of St Francis of Assisi. It has also been said that the pope's chosen name has shaped his papacy. I would like to take a minute to explore the possibilities of what the name Francis could inspire.

Oh boy, that's a lot of sheep.
Francis began an order that was inherently tied to poverty; not only helping the poor, but eschewing any type of comfort or physical goods. There is not an unattachment to the physical world, in the Buddhist sense. Francis loved the world and everything in it, and saw it as God present in everything. This is the rejection of ownership or possession. I pray that this will guide Pope Francis to delivering a message of returning to what is important. To start viewing the world as a place full of people and life and experiences and not full of things and conquests. I almost feel I don't need to say it, but this Pope will obviously be very involved with increasing awareness of the poor and workers' rights, also.

St Francis was also given the task by God to rebuild his Church. Francis was a great reformer and attacked much of the opulence and corruption that was rampant in the Church at that time. This is also a time where the hierarchy has started to believe that they are higher than God's law. The responsibility of protecting the Church is a heavy one and it is understandable how one can get misled to into thinking that protecting it from liability and scandal can outweigh protecting its individual members. Pope Francis will be called to refocus the leadership to care for the faithful and return those who have fallen to the path of righteousness.

St Francis was also a great lover of nature. I don't think it is too much of a stretch to think that Pope Francis will press a message of conservation and respect for the environment.

While I think it is safe to say that Francis of Assisi is the most famous Francis, there is another one tied very closely to our new pope. St Francis Borgia was the second most important Jesuit after St Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the order. One of the most interesting facts about this Francis is that he was a Duke and gave up all his rights to royal title in Spain to serve God. He is almost single handedly responsible for growing the Society of Jesus all over Spain and Portugal. It is a fitting name for the new pope, since he is a Jesuit and entering a time when the church needs to be defended. The Jesuits have always been known as the great defenders of the faith.

The most powerful image appears when you combine both of these saints and see the common theme. Both men gave up money, power and prestige to follow Christ. I think this name reflects the humility and dedication that Pope Francis will bring to his office. The very instant I heard his name for the first time, my heart was in my throat. This was a purely spontaneous reaction before I even considered the ramifications of what that name would entail. It is a name that inspires hope and reminds us of the best parts of the Catholic Church.