The first Jesuit to be elected pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, became the only pope to assume the name of Francis. It’s surprising and not surprising that no previous pope was willing to assume that name.
St. Francis lived a simple life. He rejected the trappings of status, power, and importance. He esteemed “Lady Poverty” as his spouse and called followers to a simple life.
After he was elected pope, Francis aspired to live up to the challenge brought on by his name. One of his choices was to dispense with fancy garments and the custom-made red shoes. He also decided to live in a modest room in the Vatican guesthouse instead of the Papal Palace.
St. Francis was also known for his agenda and a program for renewal. He was the saint who set out to rebuild and to reform the Church by evoking the example and spirit of Jesus. He rejected violence and power. He treated women with dignity and respect.
He cherished the earth and all its creatures. He molded a new human community marked by love. He did all this with a spirit of joy and freedom that makes him a source of wonder and attraction to many of his contemporaries and to his followers throughout the centuries.
Reflecting on the spirit of his name sake, Pope Francis has given us the following beautiful message. He said:
“Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other no matter how difficult it is.
“Life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you. Let us all remember then that every changing color of a leaf is beautiful and every changing situation of life is meaningful, both need a very clear vision. Do not grumble or complain.
“Instead let us remember that pain is a sign that we are alive; problems are a sign that we are strong; and prayer is a sign we are not alone! If we can acknowledge these truths and condition, our hearts and minds, our lives will be more meaningful, different and worthwhile!”
Coach Dale Brown reminds us: “Don’t wait to change your life for the better because this the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you will ever be. The persons who really want to change their lives will find a way; the others will find an excuse. Most depression and frustration come from indecision. Do not procrastinate!
“Life can be quite confusing at times and we will face temptations that can lead to anxiety, depression, fear, helplessness, and disappointment. Yet, if we do not shut God out of our lives, we will find peace, happiness and true success.”
Dutch theologian and author, Fr. Henri Nouwen, has given us the following prayer:
“O Lord, life passes by swiftly. Events that a few years ago kept me totally preoccupied have now become vague memories; conflicts that a few months ago seemed so crucial in my life now seem futile and hardly worth the energy; inner turmoil that robbed me of my sleep a few weeks ago has now become a strange emotion of the past; thoughts that kept my mind captive only a few hours ago, have now lost their power and have been replaced by others.
“Why am I continuously trapped in this sense of urgency and emergency? Why do I not see that You are eternal, that Your kingdom lasts forever, and that for You a thousand years are like one day? O Lord, let me enter into Your presence and there taste the eternal, timeless, everlasting love with which You invite me to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, preoccupations, and worries. Lord, teach me Your ways and give me the courage to follow them. Amen.”