Jorge Mario Bergolio was chosen as the 266th Pope after Pope Benedict XVI resigned his position of Pope in 2013. Jorge was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1936 to Mario and Maria Bergolio. He had four siblings: two brothers, and two sisters.
Cardinal Bergolio chose Francis as his papal name after St. Francis of Assisi, indicating his concern for and his commitment to the poor. His focus is towards the poor, and the church meeting its people where they are as well as encouraging mercy by and for Catholics worldwide.
Pope Francis is also a pope of many firsts: he is the first Pope who is a Jesuit; he is the first from the Americas as well as the first from the Southern Hemisphere. He is also the first pope from outside of Europe since the 8th century.
You can find Pope Francis on Twitter and on the Vatican website, where you can read all of his writings (as well as other Popes) and homilies. I’m currently in the middle of reading Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad; an Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness.) The website is a fascinating virtual pilgrimage of its own.
He was inaugurated as Pope in 2013, on March 19. That was nearly exactly one year since I had been visiting and praying at my church.
As I said, at that time, I was not a member of the church, either officially or unofficially. I had been attending church services – masses, ministry events, and adult faith enrichment/education classes – irregularly for about a year. I had been through so many signs and paths that continued to lead me to a more formal relationship with the church, but I still was uneducated on many of the traditions and rituals that many other Catholics take their knowledge of for granted.
I remember the gold ribbons on the front of the church and a large floor vase, similar to the accompanying photo, with yellow flowers between the two front doors. It was very bright and very joyous. The church was in celebration. Joy filled the church and everyone who entered that day.
The more I learned about Pope Francis, the more pleased I was that I was joining the church at the same time as his Papal term was beginning. He struck me as soft spoken, but firm in his beliefs. He didn’t change or suggest changing any doctrinal policies, like marriage equality and abortion, but he did promote a non judgmental attitude; our responsibility to show mercy to people who don’t follow our tenets or who believe in different things. It wasn’t that he was open-minded; it was that he was open-hearted, and expected and encouraged us to think in those terms as well.
“Be creative in order to achieve peace.”
Each time he spoke, I became more and more comfortable in my decision to come into communion with the Catholic church and study in the RCIA program and then to receive the sacraments at the following Easter Vigil. I consider myself blessed to have joined the church at around the same time as the Pope’s elevation. It fits for me and it was the perfect signal that confirmed my path.
One of the first things I discovered about Pope Francis was his devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots. I have grown very attached to this image of Mary as well. I was brought to it through Pope Francis, but she spoke to me in ways that brought me closer to her and to myself through her. As a mom, I am constantly untangling shoelaces, necklaces, wires from headphones, and so Mary taking a ribbon full of knots (problems to be solved) and untying them (solutions for those problems) was one of those mom things. In those early days of Pope Francis, I had a difficult time finding prayer cards or any other items of Mary, Untier of Knots. It is a bit easier now, now that everyone seems to have gotten the memo. I also love his commitment to women in the Church in whatever way they are and will be in the future.
“A church without women is like the apostles without Mary.”
I also appreciated Pope Francis’ concern and direction towards our common home, Earth. I read Laudato Si, and attended one or two retreats related to conservation and environmental concerns and how they are our responsibility to take care of the planet, our home. There is nothing political about taking care of our worldly home, and I am saddened that many people do not understand the implications of the choices they are making today.
“Today we are not living in an era of change but in a change of era.”
From December 8, 2015 through November 30, 2016, Pope Francis declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and for the first time in addition to opening a Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, doors were opened in parishes all across the world. My home parish was one of those parishes fortunate to receive a Holy Door. From my personal experience, I found it very moving and very spiritual. it gave me feelings that I hadn’t expected. It was overpowering. I stood in front of the holy door and prayed, and it took a few times of that before I felt ready to walk through. Mercy is a never ending tenet of the Pope and should be of the people of all faiths. For Pope Francis, “mercy is the beating heart of the Gospel.” As Matthew wrote, true mercy demands justice.
Additionally, he wrote and released an Apostolic Letter on mercy, Misericordia et misera.
I look forward to continuing to take Pope Francis’ words and example to heart and delve into deeper meanings and understanding of the Gospel.
Lastly for me was Pope Francis’ suggestion of six new Beatitudes for a new world, a more modern world. It in no way replaces Jesus’ teachings and words, but it is good to add more based on Jesus’ teachings. We are always learning and growing, and again, the original Beatitudes on the Sermon on the Mount are a good guideline for the way we live our lives, towards ourselves, towards our families, and towards others. In sharing these six Beatitudes, Pope Francis added, “All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness.”
They follow below:
— “Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.
— “Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.
— “Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
— “Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
— “Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
— “Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.”