16 March 2013

In the News

In Rome, we all have noticed, there is a new bishop. As the Pope begins his reign he is asked what name he wishes to use. Various men have chosen various names for lots of reasons. And until recently there has been a tendency towards streaks. Names seem to move in and out of popularity.

Our Roman cousins have chosen the first Francis. And as is our wont, many have heard what they choose to hear. Blessed Francis of Assisi is among the most well known and venerated saints on the calendar. He is remembered unfortunately, less for what he said and did than for his image in statuary surrounded by songbirds.

After Ignatius Loyola the most important Jesuit saint is Blessed Francis Xavier. Now he was not a bad guy, far from it, he was an amazing evangelist who was personally responsible for pushing the Gospel message into much of Asia.

Does this matter? As a Jesuit educated person (I went to Loyola University of Chicago in the 1960's) I think it does. It matters because in choosing a name, the new popes give us a clue about what they value. In the euphoria that surrounds the election of a new pope, there is a tendency to project. Francis of Assisi, the gentle, nature loving saint is an image many who found Benedict 16 legalistic, and unbending might want to see. But Francis Xavier, a tough minded, evangelistic Jesuit is more what I think they will find.

I do not mean that as a criticism of the new man. He will do his best, seems truly humble for one who has risen to the heights, and shows every ability one might need in such a one, save progressive thought. I wish him well. His holiness has said he was thinking of Francis of Assisi when he chose the name, and of course I take his word for that. But I still wonder, can a man whose priestly formation came from Jesuits forget the other Francis? Given that worthy saint's interest in evangelism, does he want to?

But then, I did go to Loyola. I like Jesuits, even when as I generally did, I disagree with them. I do not expect Francis to be running the Vatican barefoot with a grey robe and birds nesting on his shoulders. In fact no one should. Rather I think we just heard a dismissal of Benedict's willingness to shrink the church to achieve orthopraxis if not orthodoxy. I think the new man expects to grow. Grow not by making Europeans and North Americans happy but by pushing the church into Asia, Africa, and South America.

We shall see. I may be reading the tea leaves wrong. But it is important to remember that the pope is not a Franciscan, he is a Jesuit. And the Francis they revere, Francis Xavier, was an evangelist, not a lover of birds.


No comments:

St Laika's

Click to view my Personality Profile page