Sunday, March 17, 2013

Franciscan Jesuit

Is he a Franciscan Jesuit or a Jesuit Franciscan?  The debate I had with myself over this question ended with this conclusion:  in essence, Pope Francis is a Jesuit, hence “Jesuit” should be a noun, but he is now qualified by his name, hence the Franciscan adjective.  Those of us who belong to either the Jesuit or Franciscan tradition have to smile at how our new pope is living up to another of his names:  pontiff which comes from a Latin word meaning “bridge”.  For centuries, a friendly rivalry (and sometimes a not so friendly rivalry) has existed between our two religious families.  But here in one man, the traditions are united.  That is what a bridge does; it unites what otherwise might be divided.

As we read together a resume of Pope Francis’ life, we were amazed at how he himself is also a bridge between other points of divergence.  He is a Roman Cardinal that was born in the Eastern Rite.  His parents were from the Old World, but he was born and raised in the New.  He was trained in the pre-conciliar era, but ordained after the Vatican Council.  He has a degree as a chemical technician, but then became a priest who taught psychology and literature.  Pope Francis is not a narrow bridge.  Rather he brings to the papacy a broad range of experiences:  professor, novice master, provincial superior, parish priest, spiritual director, pastoral bishop.  He has had to work under a totalitarian regime like John Paul II and suffered criticism for not speaking out publicly while acting privately to rescue political victims like Pius XII.  We have here a Cardinal that cooks and now a Pope who rides buses. 

It is said that Cardinal Bergoglio was offered a position in the Vatican, but declined on the grounds that he would die in the Curia.  Being head of the Curia now we hope and pray that he will have a long and fruitful service; and that he will make the Roman Curia more livable, not only for himself but for the whole Church.  Through the intercession of our Holy Father SAINT Francis, may it be so!

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