Archive for the ‘conclave’ Tag

What’s in a name?

White smoke billowed out of the Sistine chapel chimney today and it is official…we have a pope!  My classroom was filled with cheers as the white smoke first wafted onscreen, and then impatient chatter as we all waited for the official pronouncement on this momentous day.  Such a profound historical moment.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, now Pope Francis, is the first Jesuit pope AND the first Latin American pope.  As a graduate of a Jesuit university, I have to admit that I was beaming with pride when I heard that the new pope is a Jesuit.  I was also intrigued by his name selection–did he choose Francis after St. Francis of Assisi (unusual for a Jesuit to pick a Franciscan name) or St. Francis Xavier (himself a Jesuit).  I have yet to find the correct answer, though most news outlets seem to think that St. Francis of Assisi is his namesake.  In any case, I think both saints have much to offer the new pontiff as he begins to steer the Church through these exciting times.

St. Francis of Assisi is perhaps most commonly known for being the patron saint of animals—who among us has not seen countless statues of St. Francis surrounded by animals, placed in gardens, churches, and front lawns?  But St. Francis is also known for his remarkable love for the poor.  St. Francis, born to a wealthy, noble family, forsook his wealth and lived a life of solidarity with the poor. Coincidentally (or not), one of the most frequent taglines on the news today is that Pope Francis is a simple, humble man—he lives in an apartment, cooks his own meals, and takes the bus to work each day. The example of St. Francis serves as a great reminder of Christ’s love for the poor, and that we as Church need to continue to care for the poor and to work for social change.  St. Francis gave up all worldly possessions to focus on his mission—to preach the Gospel and to lead others to Christ.  His humility and simplicity made him a compelling witness to the Catholic faith.

St. Francis Xavier was also born into a wealthy family.  He was a professor of philosophy and was well on his way to a career in academia when he met St. Ignatius of Loyola.  St. Francis Xavier became one of the first Jesuit priests and served as a missionary in Japan and India.  St. Ignatius of Loyola famously urged Francis as he set off on his mission, “Go forth and set the world aflame.”  I find this to be an exciting parallel–the first Jesuit pope selects the name of one of the first Jesuit priests, and in so doing reminds the church of her evangelizing mission.  Indeed, as a church we are called to evangelization, and in a world marred by sin and death, we so desperately need to evangelize.  We are called to spread the good news, the message of God’s love for us.

I am filled with hope for the future of the Catholic Church, and our inspiring new leader, Pope Francis. May he guide the Church with wisdom and grace, that we may truly “set the world aflame.”

Non habemus papam…yet!

Black smoke! The results from the first vote of conclave are in, and no pope yet.  The cardinals rarely elect a new pope on the first vote, so the results aren’t all that surprising.  Of course, AP news decided to run the tagline, “Roman Catholic cardinals failed to agree on a new pope during the first day of the papal conclave.”  Who knew that thoughtful discernment could be considered a failure?

I am so fascinated by the press these days. About a week before Pope Benedict’s resignation, I was writing articles about the perceived decline of Catholicism and morality in our world. Today, “Pope” is trending on twitter, “black smoke” is one of the most frequently searched words on Google, and photos of the Vatican are splashed on every newspaper and website.  Every major news outlet featured a live stream of the chimney at the Sistine Chapel, cameras poised to capture the first wisps of smoke wafting from the chapel.

Perhaps my favorite part of this whole experience is the “papal predictions.”  We—as human people— just love to control everything. For this reason we have lists of the “20 cardinals most likely to be Pope,” and we have commentators pre-recording footage about several papal contenders just in case one of them is elected pontiff.  Here in Boston, Fox News 25 (which just over a week ago featured one of its morning personalities cracking distasteful jokes about Cardinal Law) is now recruiting Boston Catholics to talk about their personal experiences with Cardinal Seán O’Malley, who is seen by the media as one of the potential frontrunners in the papal race.

I love the intrigue and speculation that surrounds conclave. But I hope and pray that we remember that the Holy Spirit has always guided the Church and will continue to, especially in this exciting time.  As Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera from Mexico reminds us, “It’s not journalists that vote in the conclave. It’s cardinals.” A part of me hopes that the new pope will be someone that no one expected—though admittedly, I have my favorite papabili—I think it would be a neat reminder that we don’t have it all figured out. Only time (and the color of the smoke!) will tell.

change our hearts

On my way home from work this evening I was listening to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s radio program on Catholic Sirius XM radio, “Conversations with Cardinal Dolan,” and he shared something so profound that I couldn’t wait to get home to write about it!

Cardinal Dolan talked about how during papal elections, we see a frenzy of articles suggesting that great change will come with a new pontiff—perhaps the new pope will allow women to be priests, alter teachings on contraception, allow abortion in some instances, etc.  These articles suggest that many people don’t understand the way that the Church functions (He shared that one reporter asked him, “Do you think the new pope will change any doctrine?” to which he responded “To use doctrine and change in the same sentence is practically an oxymoron!”). 

The Pope’s job is to safeguard the deposit of faith, to preserve Church teachings for future generations.  In fact, in today’s first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses urges the Israelites to do the same thing.

“However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”

Passing on the faith is no small task, especially in a world that is rapidly changing.  The message of the Church is, at times, wildly unpopular because it presents a challenge and quite a radical message. Church teaching doesn’t always meet us where we are, or where we want to be, but rather it calls us to be more like God.

Cardinal Dolan continued, “Yes, the next Pope will call for change…change in our hearts, change in our souls.”  We are the ones that need to change, explained Cardinal Dolan, not the doctrine. The Church doesn’t need to change her teaching on abortion or contraception—we need to be a people who are open to life, in all stages, and with all of its challenges.  My prayer today is that we may all join in prayer not only for the cardinals as they gather in conclave, but also for the conversion of hearts—that God may open our minds and our hearts to more humbly accept God’s plan for us.

Bob Rice

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