Three reasons I'm excited for Papa Francisco
By Anthony Paz, Guest Commentary
Sure, I was excited about the prospect of a new pope; most Catholics were. The prospect of change got everyone's imagination going and hopes running high. However, I never expected to be more excited after the election than before. But, here I am, as excited about the state of the Catholic Hierarchy as I've ever been.
It seems I am not alone in my excitement. My own Facebook feed and Twitter homepage have been overflowing with expressions of joy and hope at the election of Pope Francis, formerly Archbishop Jorge Mario Cardinal Begoglio of Buenos Aires. Although I admit that I am perhaps projecting my own desires for specific changes in Church governance, there is no doubt that Papa Francisco was chosen precisely because he is so different from his predecessors. There are many different reasons to be pleased and hopeful about the new Pope, but, as I can only speak for myself, allow me to name my own top five reasons for being excited about Pope Francis.
On the day Benedict XVI announced that he would be resigning, I wrote the following in my journal (yes, I still keep a journal. Don't judge.): "Whether he's liberal or conservative, let the next pope be a man who knows and loves and serves the poor." The next day, I read the following in an article by Fr. Peter Daly in the National Catholic Reporter: "I hope we get a man who knows what it's like to be poor." Guess what? WE DID! Pope Francis was born to poor Italian immigrants in Argentina. He had a lot of brothers and sisters and his family didn't have much money to give them. Further, he chose to take a vow of poverty (like our priests and brothers of Holy Cross here at UP) when he decided to become a Jesuit. As a bishop, material simplicity and poverty were his trademarks; he gave up the extravagant archbishop's palace in favor of a modest apartment where he cooked his own food and took the bus to work. More than that, however, the poor were essential to his expression of the Christian mission. For him, there was no point in being a Christian if he did not serve the poor in one way or another. He will bring his desire for both social justice and charity for the poor to his role as pope.
Okay, yes, he's an ethnic Italian who grew up in Argentina. However, from all I've read, he's an Argentine through-and-through. From the moment I heard him speak and heard his softly accented Italian, I couldn't help but be excited by the fact that, for the first time in hundreds of years, Spanish is the Pope's native language. Not only does he know first-hand the challenges facing the developing world, but he shares the experience of millions of displaced people, a condition that still defines the vast majority of Americans, even four or five generations after emigration. Pope Francis will no doubt inspire all members of the Church to pay attention to refugees and immigrants in their neighborhoods and, hopefully, advocate for closer brotherhood and mutual assistance between nations of differing economic status.
Although I'll always root for UP or Notre Dame when they play Gonzaga or Georgetown, I've got to hand it to the Jesuits for all the amazing ways they've helped me grow spiritually (not to mention paid my rent when I subbed for Jesuit High and worked at the Jesuit Volunteer Corps). St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, A.K.A. the Jesuits, possessed an eerily accurate sense of the way the human psyche communicates with God. The Jesuits have brought his simple and effective methods of prayer and growing in relationship with Jesus to the ends of the earth. Additionally, they have been on the forefront of efforts at helping the poor and the marginalized throughout the world. Pope Francis brings all of this Ignatian spirituality and institutional concern for the neediest persons with him to the Vatican.
I could write more, but I'll stop. Hopefully, these qualities it will quickly translate to a hierarchy that is more in tune with the needs of more of the world's population, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Pope Francis appeals to so many because of his humble and simple and truly Christlike way of living the Gospel. Let's pray in thanks for his selection and in hope of all the good things that will come of it.
Anthony is the assistant director of Faith Formation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.