On March 13, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope, taking on the name of St. Francis of Assisi as his papal name.  By taking on this saint’s name, the new Pope is orienting his term of office  toward humble service for the poorest and lowliest of people, following the example of Francis of Assisi who lived humbly and devoted his life to service of those who were poor and suffering.  He has already proven to be very popular among rank and file Catholics, reminding some of the widely beloved Pope John Paul II (1978-2005).  Liturgical traditionalists initially embraced his election, but many are now shocked at his rejection of extravagant vestments and high-church rituals that were continued by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for the last eight years.  As I read about Francis’ actions, attitude, and example, I see more and more of Jesus in the man.  He looks to be an inspiring leader who will direct Catholics back toward the Christian service that Jesus taught in Matthew 25 (those actions that distinguish the “sheep,” or Christ’s true followers, from the goats, those merely pretending to be His followers).

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. 


 


Comments

02/02/2017 6:44am

St. Francis is an example for the people how to live in the way of Jesus. His services to the poor and needy is valuable and great. He is a angel comes to teach about Jesus.

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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