When I first heard about the resignation of Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI I was half awake after having a lie in on my day off university. My flatmate had been ringing me all morning, which I presumed was just to wake me up. Next thing I get a text message saying ‘The Pope has quit his job’ and as you can imagine I was immediately awake but suspicious that it was a ploy to get me out of bed; I soon found that this wasn’t the case. Of course my initial reaction was along the lines of ‘Can he do that?’ and moreover questioning why he had done it and what it meant. But then I thought about it some more. I soon came to the conclusion that the last two Popes had taught us two very good and important lessons. The first had taught us that it is fine to be seen to struggle in the face of adversity, it’s fine to carry on in the face of trouble. The other taught us that it is also okay to let go and let somebody else carry on with what you feel you are no longer capable of doing. Two great men who have taught us all lessons which we can all interpret in our own ways depending on our lives.
Once I had heard the news I was immediately looking at flying over to Rome and being in Rome for when the next Pope would be elected and as soon as the dates for conclave were announced I booked my flights to Rome. I had booked the earliest available flights which were Thursday and as I now know this was a day too late to be there for the announcement however I still am ready now, 4 hours before I am set to travel to the airport to go and experience the now electric atmosphere I will be greeted by in Rome.
Looking however at the man who has been elected to be our new Holy Father I can safely say I am full of every bit of confidence that he will lead the church in the direction of God’s will. His entrance onto the balcony said to me something about himself, clearly still in some state of shock about what had happened over the past 24 hours he gracefully walked onto the balcony ready to greet the world. A few waves and several moments of taking in the spectacle in front of him; his words perfectly saying what the church had been longing to hear since Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI had stepped down. The thing that struck me the most was his beautiful understanding of humility; hearing the words “first I ask a favour of you: before [I bless you], I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me” A man who has been chosen by God, given a powerful role, still asking for help, WOW!. These words really struck me deep in my heart and I am filled with so much admiration for him even though I have only really known of him for a few short hours.
After debating with myself for a few moments I concluded that he had named himself after St Francis of Assisi, he couldn’t not have chosen St Francis of Assisi given the lifestyle he has chosen to live in the past and also through the message that he has given us. I am elated that he chose the name ‘Francis’ for a number of reasons, firstly because I come from the parish of Sacred Heart and St Francis. Secondly knowing who St Francis was it gives me a true reflection of the message I anticipate him to spread throughout his papacy. St Francis was a man who had everything and lived what we would call nowadays the ‘playboy’ lifestyle and yet everything that he had, didn’t give him the satisfaction that he needed. There was a God shaped hole in his life and none of the money, fine clothes, partying and promiscuity could fill that. When St Francis turned to God he gave every part of himself to God and lived from then on a life of humility and complete devotion. I notice that a lot of the youth culture nowadays is centred around the same ideology that St Francis used to have and it is there for the same reason. Perhaps Pope Francis wants us to realise this and that the only way we can fill that God shaped hole is by turning ourselves towards God. We don’t have to give up every part of our previous life and replace everything with God but rather include him in what we say, do and think. If this is the message that Pope Francis is going to bring about then I think it is the perfect message and I couldn’t think of anything better.