Last week, at the time of the writing of my column, we did not know who the Pope was. But today, we know! We know with great enthusiasm. Pope Francis, in just a few short days, has come on the world stage and has made it known that he “would like a Church which is poor and for the poor.” Such desire has been illustrated in his own actions amidst a whirl-wind of ceremonial grandiosity. He has, on several occasions, refused the safety of the papal limousine in favor of a more modest means (sometimes just walking), taken detours without announcing it to his security, insisted in paying his hotel bill, and choosing to wear a simpler ensemble with the papal white cassock. In time, I imagine that some of these things, most notably his random and unannounced behaviors may be modified for the sake of his own personal safety. But, time will tell. This Pope Francis is a man of simplicity.
Such signs of simplicity and humility speak very easily to the average person. Such style is very good for an unbelieving world to see, a world which accuses the Church of opulence, narcissism, and deceit -- all the while being guilty of the vary same things in magnitudes beyond any wild imaginings alleged against the Church. Yet, it is his simplicity and poverty (charisms of religious orders) that will be able to keep the “sharks” at bay. In my homily of last week, I confessed that his simplicity re-inspired my own priestly ministry in these few short days. How wonderful a gift as Lent draws to a close and Easter season approaches.
Being a Pope is an impossible job without the grace of prayer. Pope Francis has asked us to pray for him (another astonishing moment during his first few minutes as Roman Pontiff). He also asked for prayers for Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us set our hearts on these two gentle shepherds who need every heavenly grace they can.
Finally, let us offer our praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who have worked through our Cardinals to bring us Pope Francis at this time in our history. May we all find in Pope Francis a model and inspiration of Christian faith which brings us all closer to the sacred heart of Jesus! May we be reinvigorated to proclaim the Gospel with simple evangelical zeal so that Jesus may reign in more hearts!
Fr. William Holtzinger