At his first press conference in the Vatican, Pope Francis broke from his prepared comments to describe the final hours of the conclave that elected him pope. He said, ‘Let me tell you a story.’
Francis said he was comforted by his friend, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, as it appeared the voting was favoring him and it seemed ‘a bit dangerous’ that he would reach the two-thirds necessary to be elected.
‘He hugged me. He kissed me. He said don't forget about the poor,’ Francis recalled. ‘And that's how in my heart came the name Francis of Assisi.’
He said some people have asked why he took the name, Francis, since it also could suggest references to other figures including the co-founder of the pope's Jesuit order, Francis Xavier. But he said his intention came to his heart as an inspiration immediately after the election. St. Francis of Assisi, the pope said, was ‘the man of the poor. The man of peace. The man who loved and cared for creation and in this moment we don't have such a great relationship with the creator. The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man who wanted a poor church.’
Yes, finally a Franciscan pope… well, a Jesuit pope (the first ever, from an order that was once banned by the pope) who loves the Franciscan idea. What more could we have asked for, as the world today is at least in as much trouble as was that late mediaeval time in which appeared the original Francesco di Bernardone?
The original Francis heard the voice of Christ telling him, ‘Go and rebuild my Church which, as you can see, is lying about you in ruins.’ So, do we have a God who really does care about us after all? after all we've done, or did not do, for Him and to Him? Or do we have a man of hope, God's hope and ours?
Yes, we could not have asked for more, nor do we deserve better. The God of heaven, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, does care about us, and always has. How do we know? Because in spite of all that happens to us or by us, Jesus said so. We have nothing to rely on except His spoken words.
Which we can hear, if we want to, and so believe, if we dare. Just like this Argentine Italian priest whom the Church has elevated to a position of visibility and authority. He is no different from you or me, except that now he has to sit in the hot seat of human expectation, holding up a sign like the beggar at the stop light.
The Poverello, yes, Saint Francis of Assisi, has been invoked. This man of God who like his Divine Master was dead but is now alive, and for ever, has been summoned to our minds. He has no power to save, but we pray to him nonetheless, asking him to help us, as a brother groaning under a burden prays his neighbor for help.
Though I am not a Roman Catholic, I am satisfied that the Church is one even though she appears divided, and I know that all who work for Him, the Sovereign Lord, serve the same Master, and I know that ‘a man cannot serve two masters… You cannot serve both God and money.’ Who does this man serve?
As with you or me, so with Pope Francis.
We will soon find out.
I like it when a pope starts out with, ‘Let me tell you a story.’