(Originally posted on Ignitum Today)
The new pope seems like a humble man. His motto is “Lowly but Chosen”.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the Archbishop of Bueno Aires. He is a man who rejected his luxurious residence next to the Bueno Aires Cathedral in favour of an apartment, where he nursed a fellow bishop who was old and sickly. He cooked for them both in the evenings. He travelled by public transport, relatively anonymous wearing an ordinary priest’s cassock. He ordered those who wanted to fly from Argentina to Rome where he was to be made Cardinal in 2001 to give the money they had raised to go to the poor.
He reminds me rather of Victor Hugo’s Bishop Myriel in his novel Les Miserables. A man who swapped his residence for the hospital, who gave up all his money he had to better someone else’s life, who walked everywhere around his large diocese, who could win the hearts of dangerous thieves and sworn athiests and revolutionaries. This beautiful character was painted as the ideal of what a Bishop and clerical figure should be, as Hugo put it “this Catholic priest, this pure and lofty figure of true priesthood, offers the most savage satire on the priesthood today.”
Humility and generosity is not weakness.
By choosing the name Pope Francis the new Pope has already sent a strong message. St. Francis of Assisi call began with the voice of God, saying, “Francis, go rebuild my Church”, he was a model of social justice, personal relationship with Christ and offering all you have to bear fruit. Francis was a reformer, a revolutionary. He did not merely give to the poor. He held strong to his faith and what it stood for, but at a level that brought the faith to all particularly to the ordinary people. The Jesuit Francis was St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missionaries.
How appropriate is all this for rebuilding our church in the age of New Evanglisation and in the middle of the Year of Faith? In a church surrounded by worldliness. Pope Francis will be able to hold his ground if this quote from an interview in 2012 is anything to go by:
“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… Spiritual worldliness is a form of religious anthropocentrism that has Gnostic elements… An example I often use to illustrate the reality of vanity, is this: look at the peacock; it’s beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if you look at it from behind, you discover the truth… Whoever gives in to such self-absorbed vanity has huge misery hiding inside them”