Sunday, May 11

A Big Heart Open to God: Pope Francis

Pope Francis (real name Jorge Mario Bergoglio) is the most recent man to become Pope. Notably, he is currently gaining a lot of media attention for his desired changes to the Roman Catholic Church. In an August 2013 interview conducted by Jesuit journalist Antionio Spadaro, Pope Francis conveyed a variety of ideas on different topics that are currently very relevant not only to him, but also to the church. It therefore seemed pertinent to write an article outlining this landmark interview - and this is the result. Starting off in the Jesuit Society from the age of 36, he has since risen to be the new Pope. Francis is noted for having a very simple workspace – only having an icon of Christ, St. Francis, St. Joseph and Mary – is not very familiar with Rome, and is the first Jesuit to ever become the Bishop of Rome. 

This Pope also has a growing reputation for being a very personal man. He prefers to have one on one conversation with individuals as opposed to the gathering of masses (no pun intended). In fact, he prefers one-on-one so much so that in recent days, he made a phone call to a young man who had written him a letter – merely because he believed it was a beautifully simplistic letter and wanted to privately speak to him. He completely trusts people also, and that individual must make a very bad mistake for him to rebuke that person. This is a very unique aspect of Pope Francis’ character: his personal and private self. 

Pope Francis was asked a variety of questions, particularly pertaining to why he joined the Jesuit order, how he feels about homosexuality and abortion, what he feels should happen between a Young and an Old Church, the idea of community and the notion of discernment. Why did he join the Jesuit order? According to Pope Francis, he desired something more but was unsure of what it was that he wanted. In my thinking, this longing is the desire described in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “[God] has set eternity in the human heart.” This longing was the longing described by Ronald Rolhesier and many others-  the insatiable burning desire described by Rolhesier. 

King Solomon had tried everything “under the sun,” and nothing made him happy. This is why he concluded in Ecclesiastes that God has placed this desire in our heart for eternity with him – it is not what is under the sun that satisfies and saves. Therefore, Pope Francis recognized this longing and burning desire and found his peace in the Jesuit Society. To him, the idea of missions, community and discipline were to be admired. As we see in his one-on-one interaction with others, Pope Francis also notes that he needs to be around people, which is which he believes that consulting those around him is wise; he cannot live his life or have an identity without other people, hence why he is in this society.

When asked what aspect of Ignatian spirituality helps him live out his ministry, Pope Francis replied that it is the idea of discernment that he cherishes the most. I tend to agree with him on this point. You may have a lot of knowledge about a topic, but unless you are able to discern truth from falsehood and right from wrong, what does the knowledge do for you if you cannot discern wisely? The Pope believes that discernment is found by looking for signs from God, listening to things that occur, and so forth – essentially, watching the Bonaventurian fingerprints of God at work. This also ties into his idea of finding God in everything just as St. Bonaventure once taught, seeing God’s echoes, pictures and fingerprints in Creation. Also, although we are also created in His image, God understands that we are not perfect and that we make mistakes. 

He also believes that – although we may see evidence of God in his creation and elsewhere – God leaves just enough room for uncertainty. Pope Francis notes that God gives us just enough doubt so that we can have sufficient evidence, but that we must take that final leap of faith as Hebrews 11:6 talks about. The Pope also addresses the hot topics of homosexuality and abortion – to him, when these sort of issues are discussed, they simply must be talked about in their individual context. Pope Francis has a lot of brilliant and fresh ideas to help hold up the pillars of the Catholic Church, and a lot of his ideas resonate with me. It appears that the Church is in for a new reformation, and I look forward to seeing the changes Pope Francis brings. 

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