Archive for the ‘mission’ 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.”

Bob Rice

Catholic speaker, musician, author, teacher

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