Pope Francis - thank you Lord!

Thank you, Lord!

I have had the pleasure and the privilege to have studied at a Jesuit University faculty as part of my training to be a De La Mennais Brother and was delighted - as were many, it seems - that we now have a Jesuit Pope. But what about the man himself, his character, his background? In our modern media-savvy world it only took seconds for news agencies and people sitting in front of their TVs everywhere to bring up websites and images from the internet giving us a pen picture of this surprise choice... and those important first impressions were undeniably  and reassuringly positive. A collective sigh of relief could be heard like a gentle wave breaking over Catholics throughout the world, after which was a growing sense of optimism and excitement as Pope Francis asked those in St. Peter's Square to pray for him, as he smiled and joked, all with the calm serenity of someone who has accepted God's will in his life in total trust that "all will be well and all manner of things will be well".

Perhaps the thing that surprised me the most was that the commentators were at the same time surprised by his election and yet identified Cardinal Bergoglio as the "runner-up" in the 2005 Papal election. Even though his age did seem to mitigate against him, surely the fact that his brother Cardinals already thought so highly of him would have suggested that he was at least in the running. But then, the Lord's ways are not our ways, never were and never will be.

I never like judging people on first impressions though it is unfortunately part of human nature that we tend to do this, never more so, it seems, than in situations such as the other day when the new Pope walked to the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square and uttered his first words as the new global shepherd of the Catholic Church.

On the British Jesuit website one of their number writes about recent events in an interesting and enlightening manner, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the Jesuits and their history. Here are a few passages from the article:

"It has been an extraordinary few weeks in the life of the Catholic Church, from the almost-unheard-of resignation of a Bishop of Rome to the totally-unheard-of election, accomplished with quite remarkable rapidity, of a Jesuit as his successor. It may be helpful to readers to explain that the Jesuits (‘Society of Jesus’) is a religious order founded in the 16th century, whose members were forbidden to accept high office in the Church (unless commanded by the pope). The reason for that was that in those days, when reform was urgently needed in the Church, to be a bishop was a gateway to wealth and power, and our founder, Ignatius Loyola, was very aware of the temptations that money and power could bring. Perhaps at the present critical juncture in the history of the Church we need just such a pope as the one who has taken the name of Francis, after that other great reformer, from Assisi...

...Finally, and best of all, I observe from all over the world an extraordinary upsurge of optimism about the Church in its present (admittedly tricky) situation; several people, including one very senior religious sister, have said to me, by e-mail or telephone or in conversation, that they are feeling better about the Church than they have done for years. This is a very good indicator of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Anyone who tries to predict what shape Francis’ papacy is going to take is bound (like all those who so confidently predicted the outcome of the conclave) to end up looking stupid, so I am not going to do that. The best thing about the present moment is that it does not feel like a victory for this party or that; instead it has the fresh and joyful unexpectedness that is the sign that the Holy Spirit has been at work. Let me conclude, therefore, by simply asking for the prayers of all readers, not just Catholic, nor just Christian, for the new adventure on which we are beginning. And even if you think that you may be atheist, I would still ask that you spare a thought for Francis I. We live in a world that is very closely linked, and the Bishop of Rome can influence that world very much for the better, if he will listen to the voice of God and to the voice of the poor. This is a very happy day for us all."

Click here for the rest of the article.

I feel that optimism too. After the events of recent weeks and months in the Church, such optimism is as unexpected as it is welcome. We in the Church need to use that optimism and renewed hope, graces of the Holy Spirit, to inspire us to keep going on our missionary journeys with a smile on our face, with love and joy in our hearts, bearing witness to the one who has called us to follow him as his ambassadors of love in the world.

Thank you Lord!  

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