I am not Catholic but with the recent election of a new pope, I am intrigued by the ancient workings of the Catholic Church. I did not follow the conclave very close, but I was home when the white smoke emerged from the roof of the Sistine Chapel and I’ve read and watched international news until I’m blue in the face. Aside from the technical, historical, theological jargon, I’m offering my two-cents-worth on the recent Vatican event.
His Holiness has a lot on his plate: sex abuse scandals, international relations, and decline in church membership to name a few. At face value, the new kid on the block is quite different from previous popes.
- Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope, meaning he observes a vow of poverty and is known for his simplicity and accessibility.
- He’s super-duper frugal. I’m curious about the changes in housekeeping he may make inside the Vatican. Will the sheets on his bed be changed daily, similar to hotel guest beds? Every other day? Once a week? Or at His Holiness’ request only?
- Will Pope Francis discard the Popemobile for a more conservative vehicle? Will he keep his bicycle and transit pass? I’m thinking the protective shield that envelopes the current Popemobile will be difficult for a bicycle to maneuver. Perhaps the powers-that-be can make it happen. He is the Pope, after all.
- His Holiness is accessible via social media. He proved this sentiment with an immediate tweet within minutes of being elected. @Pontiffex: HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM. It’s Latin for “We have Pope Francis.”
- Finally, I am most intrigued by His Holiness Pope Francis’s decision to honor Saint Francis of Assisi with his papal name. Francis of Assisi was never ordained as a priest, but he is considered one of the Catholic Church’s holiest figures, and canonized (declared a saint) by Pope Gregory IX in 1228. He grew up a wealthy playboy, not exactly saint-like behavior, but in 1205, Francis of Assisi had a “vision” and took up a life of prayer and solitude. During a pilgrimage to Rome, he gave all his money to the city’s poor and exchanged his valuable clothes for that of a beggar. He later returned to Rome after selling his home and possessions to raise money to rebuild the city’s chapels. His Holiness Pope Francis brings evangelism and care to the poor to the forefront. His simplistic nature and concern for the destitute is a humbling characteristic; he has a vastly different sense of reality from previous popes. I pray his experience and perspective on social justice issues are seriously considered by all of us, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
To end, I’ll share the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. Growing up, both sets of grandparents have this poignant prayer prominently (alliteration alert!) displayed in their homes. They not only display the words, but they live the words of the prayer in their hearts and actions. I hope it resonates with you too.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Today, and every day, may you be blessed and be a blessing.