From the time Benedict’s successor was revealed, I believed that we were witnessing something different – hopefully change. Pope Francis I embraces many “firsts” – which is probably why the Cardinals chose him. Change and reconciliation seem to be at the forefront – something the Church so desperately needs today. Francis is the first Latin American Pope, first Jesuit Pope, first Pope to use the name of Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, a Saint held in high regard by Catholics. When I heard his chosen name, I immediately thought of St. Francis, to whom my favorite prayer is attributed. This is a prayer that inspires me and speaks about how I try to live my life – as one who strives for peace, and provides love, hope, and compassion. St. Francis’ story is a powerful story of conversion from a life of great wealth to one of voluntary poverty. Francis received a revelation from Christ to “rebuild my Church,” in a way that embraces peace and love as well as providing protection for all of creation. The notion of “Protector” was a major theme in Pope Francis’ homily during his inauguration mass.
As an unlikely choice for Pope, mostly due to his age and health, Francis reminds me of another unlikely advocate for the people – a man chosen to be Archbishop because of his passivity and his ill-health – Oscar Romero. Romero surprised the people who placed him in office and stirred things up when he became a staunch advocate for the people that he served. Romero’s “moment of conversion” revealed something spectacular that changed Latin America. In his role as leader, he found his voice and became a defender for the poor and oppressed. It is because of Romero that I am hopeful that Francis will provide (or at least start the wheels in motion to provide) changes to the Catholic Church. Continue reading “Standing in Cautious Optimism with the Election of the First Jesuit Pope by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”