He is following in the servant-leader tradition which Jesus taught and lived, and which I made the model for my life during my military career. But just like our Savior, Jesus, Francis’ service and humility should not be mistaken for weakness. Among the stories that are now being told about the earlier life of Francis is one of a very heated exchange he had with a man over moving Jesuit museum artifacts. Francis, a young priest at the time, had been sent by superiors to the museum to move certain artifacts to a chapel some distance away. The museum curator resisted, resulting in a brief intense verbal struggle between the two men. "We didn't actually have a fist fight," he admits, laughing again at the idea, but strong words were exchanged and Bergoglio would not budge. "Now, at least, I can say I've seen him at his toughest and I know he's no pushover."
That said, Francis most definitely practices what he preaches. Yesterday, on Holy Thursday, he continued a tradition of other popes in a foot washing ritual, but in a dramatic exemplification of his devotion to the poor and to social outcasts, instead of washing the feet of priests, he washed the feet of a dozen young inmates at a juvenile detention center. The 12 who had their feet washed were from different nationalities and religious backgrounds. Their ages ranged between 16 and 21, and the group included 2 young women and 2 Muslims. After washing the feet of each person, Francis then kissed their feet, in a very poignant gesture of love. This foot washing ritual follows the actions of Jesus as he washed the feet of the disciples in John 13:16, in order to show them that leaders should serve the needs of those they lead. I don’t know about you, but I thought this act was awesome, setting an example of service for leaders everywhere, both in the church and in the world at large.
I pray that God will fill each of you with His Spirit and lead you to opportunities of love and service to those around you, no matter how mundane or humble.