I was recently going back through my book on the prayer of St. Francis, “Make me an Instrument of your Peace.” I was pleased at what I read. I did well in that work, calling forth my better angels in service of a kinder vision of life than I often practice in my daily affairs. And, in the course of rereading, it got me thinking about this new pope who has taken Francis’ name.
I like this new man, and am drawn to him. It is the first time in a long time that the Catholics have raised up a leader who seems to shed grace and calm and light on the world through which he passes.
Since John the 23rd, all the popes have seemed to have a pinched severity somewhere at their cores — a judgmentalism born of the weight of the institution they have been called upon to lead.
This is only natural — institutions, by their nature, are embodiments of structure, not agents of non-judgmental embrace, because they have to have rules and standards by which they hold themselves together.
If the Catholic Church — one of the most venerable, venerated, and vilified institutions in the history of the world — is to become more like the man on whose message it is founded, it would seem to need to go through a period of almost chaotic embrace of the spiritual cacophony of human experience.
This new pope has chosen well by claiming the mantle of Francis. Who among us remembers Francis’ theology and moral strictures? We remember the man and his joy and his embrace. If this new pope can remain true to the spirit of Francis, caring more about embodying the message of Jesus than with defining it — if he can give us more Beatitudes and less Ten Commandments — a thousand flowers may yet bloom.