March 13th, 2013, is a day remembered by Roman Catholics everywhere. What a jubilant, exciting, time in history. I can only imagine the excitement in St. Peter’s square at the breaking news of our new Pope. As people started seeing the white smoke exit the chimney from Rome, texts were being issued, phones were ringing, TV programs were being interrupted, radio stations were broadcasting, everyone was buzzing. A stranger next to me in the drug store got a text, and she smiled ear to ear sharing with anyone close to her, we have a new Pope! we have a new Pope! I asked her if she knew who it was to which she exclaimed, “I don’t know, I’m not even catholic, but it’s exciting.”
Exciting it was, and a surprise as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was made Pope. Even more of a surprise was the name he chose “Francis of Assisi” with the title “Servus Servorum Dei” meaning “Servant of the Servants of God”. The first time any Pope has chosen this name meaning the little poor man. The name chosen represents his vision and direction of the Church. God called Francis to rebuild my church at a time of corruption and a turning away of the people, a loss of faith. Many of us Franciscan’s are hopeful of what this means. A Franciscan friend of mine, Gerald R. Gioglio, put it well when he said, “As a sister OFS, I suspect you are thrilled over the name choice of our new pope…. I hear they call him “Papa Pancho” (meaning Pope Francis) in Latin America. I’m praying Papa P will walk the Franciscan walk–active peacemaking, embracing today’s oppressed ‘lepers’ and caring for creation. And, let’s not forget the model of inclusion that was the full partnership between Francis and Clare. Hmm…Big sandals to fill there, we’ll see…we could sure use another Pope John XXIII….” (A Pope that people expected to be a caretaker, because of his age, however he surprised everyone by calling the historic Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). He did not live to see it to completion, dying in 1963, but he made a huge contribution to our Church.)
Well, I would have to say that after hearing Timothy Cardinal Dolan reflect on his witness of the election of our new Pope Francis, he seems to be showing signs of what we all need and desire. Pope Francis did not choose the garments expected, he chose the simplest, he would not sit on the special chair his master of ceremonies directed him to, instead he stood at the balcony facing the people and bowed his head, asking for the people to bless him, before he would bless them, with his first blessing. I heard comments from those in the crowds that it poured rain all day and night, however the moment he stepped out on the balcony the rain ceased, a sign from the Holy Spirit perhaps. When departing for the night he refused to drive in his special limousine and preferred to ride the bus with his brother Cardinals.
His first day as Pope, before 8am went to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he prayed for 30 minutes before the Blessed Madonna placing everything under her and her protection.
He then went and paid his hotel bill.
For me Pope Francis gives me hope. I feel so comforted in his choice of St. Francis of Assisi, and his simplicity, humility, and yet power (in the smallness)to change the unthinkable. May we all continue to pray for our Church and its leader to bring us in this year of faith, closer to our creator God, and one another. Pax Et Bonum!!!