Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis

We have a new Pope.  I have some random thoughts about this, colored by a conversation with my sister, a little bit of Fox News, and from reading interviews with Pope Francis from 2012 and earlier.  I am no expert, but it was obvious that many of the pundits on Fox weren't either, so here goes...

As an Argentinian, this election sends a clear message to those of us in the Western Hemisphere.  The church isn't completely Euro-centric anymore.  But since he's not from the U.S., it reminds us in the states to be a little less jingoistic in our view of ourselves as American Catholics.  (It's not all about us!)

He stated in an interview with Andrea Tornielli, " The cardinalate is a service, it is not an award to be bragged about. Vanity, showing off, is an attitude that reduces spirituality to a worldly thing, which is the worst sin that could be committed in the Church."  This will be a humble Pope.

He chose the name Francis, which he did not explain.  Francis of Assisi stripped himself naked in the city square to prove to everyone there that he was renouncing all worldly possessions.  Our Pope has chosen to renounce the Archbishop's Palace in favor of an apartment.  He hasn't owned a car, preferring to take the bus.  He cooks for himself.

Saint Francis of Assisi cared for animals, rebuilt a chapel and founded an order with strict rules on poverty and prayer.  Perhaps this signals that we should care for all of God's creatures, and embrace the simple life.

If he chose the name Francis because he's a Jesuit, then he's thinking St. Francis Xavier.  This Francis went East to Asia to bring Catholicism to Goa in India, Indonesia and Japan.  This could be a message to the Chinese that he is not going to tolerate the persecution of Catholics, the one child policy, or government appointed 'catholic' bishops.  Or because Goa was then a Portuguese colony, it may be another connection to Fatima.  Or both.

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope, and the order has problems.  Some say he was appointed bishop by John Paul II because the liberal leaders of his order were persecuting him.  He is unrelentingly against contraception, abortion, and gay marriage, which would make him different from many Jesuits.  The Jesuits have a Pope now, from their own order.  I hope and pray they will follow him.

He was chosen on the 13th of March.  Many Catholics will see in this a message from the conclave that the Virgin Mary is guiding their choice.  The 13th of the month has been seen as Mary's day since her apparitions at Fatima.  In a 24-hour news cycle, two days of voting can seem like a long time.  The Drudge Report had a headline this morning saying something about the smoke still being black.  In fact, two days is lightning fast at the Vatican.  That means there was probably a strong consensus going in to the conclave.

He will say his first Mass as Pope on the Feast of St. Joseph, who cared for, protected and loved Mary and Jesus.  Pope Francis will be calling on his intercession as he takes on the role of father for his flock.

Finally, a personal thought. Pope Francis eschewed some of the pomp of his new vocation by bowing humbly to those in Saint Peter's Square and asking them to pray.  As I watched this several times, I was struck by the expression on his face.  He was not smiling really, but seemed to be almost overcome with something deeper.  I thought at one point that he would cry.

Or all of the above.  Or none of the above.

Let's do as Pope Francis asks and pray for him.  The job ahead of him could surely be overwhelming.  God bless you Pope Francis.  May the Most Holy Mother of God wrap you in her mantle to protect you.

In his own words:
 Letter of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to the Carmelite Nuns of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires (June 22, 2010)]

Dear Sisters,

I write this letter to each one of you in the four Monasteries of Buenos Aires. The Argentine people must face, in the next few weeks, a situation whose result may gravely harm the family. It is the bill on matrimony of persons of the same sex.

The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children. The life of so many children who will be discriminated beforehand due to the lack of human maturity that God willed them to have with a father and a mother is in jeopardy. A clear rejection of the law of God, engraved in our hearts, is in jeopardy.

I recall words of Saint Thérèse when she speaks of the infirmity of her childhood. She says that the envy of the Devil tried to extort her family after her older sister joined the Carmel. Here, the envy of the Devil, through which sin entered the world, is also present, and deceitfully intends to destroy the image of God: man and woman, who receive the mandate to grow, multiply, and conquer the earth. Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a "move" of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.

Jesus tells us that, in order to defend us from this lying accuser, he will send us the Spirit of Truth. Today, the Nation [patria], before this situation, needs the special assistance of the Holy Ghost that may place the light of Truth amid the shadows of error; it needs this Advocate who may defend us from the enchantment of so many sophisms with which this bill is being justified, and which confuse and deceive even people of good will.

That is why I turn to you and ask from you prayer and sacrifice, the two invincible weapons which Saint Thérèse confessed to have. Cry out to the Lord that he may send his Spirit to the Senators who are to place their votes. That they may not do it moved by error or by circumstantial matters, but rather according to what the natural law and the law of God tell them. Pray for them, for their families; that the Lord may visit, strengthen, and console them. Pray that they may do great good for the Nation.

This bill will be discussed in the Senate after July 13. Let us look towards Saint Joseph, to Mary, the Child, and let us ask with fervor that they will defend the Argentine family in this moment. Let us recall what God himself told his people in a time of great anguish: "this war is not yours, but God's". That they may succour, defend, and accompany us in this war of God.

Thank you for what you will do in this struggle for the Nation. And, please, I beg you, pray for me also. May Jesus bless you, and may the Blessed Virgin protect you.

Affectionately,

Card. Jorge Mario Bergoglio s.j., Archbishop of Buenos Aires
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