Pope Francis—The Journey Begins

As the newly elected pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s papacy has already been historical. His is a part of the world no other pontiff has hailed from. His is an order no other pontiff has claimed. His is a name no other pontiff has taken. Even from this, it may be fair to expect that the pontificate of Pope Francis will be one to break with precedents and blaze new paths for the faithful. If ever there was a saint that did such a thing, it was his namesake. If ever there was a time that the Church would welcome a Francis, it is now.

The Vatican confirmed that this first Pope Francis is named after the first Saint Francis: St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order. There was initially speculation that Cardinal Bergoglio, a Jesuit, chose “Francis” after St. Francis Xavier, the co-founder of the Society of Jesus with St. Ignatius of Loyola. Such is not the case, however, and the choice may be seen as an immediate gesture of unity in evangelization.

The last papacy dedicated to St. Benedict preserved the culture of faith like St. Benedict did, from deep within the fortress of sacred, solemn tradition. Now may the papacy dedicated to St. Francis propagate the faith like St. Francis did, in the wide landscape of joyful, jubilant creation. As Benedict XVI was precise, so now may Francis I be passionate.

Flag_of_Vatican_CityThe first thing Pope Francis said when he stepped out on the balcony before the world was quite significant because it was a joke. It seemed that the Conclave, he said, in appointing a bishop for Rome, had somehow managed to select someone from quite another part of the globe. “Here I am,” he said with a sheepish smile.

“Let us begin this journey together,” he went on to say, “the successor and the people; this journey for the Roman Catholic Church. It is a journey of friendship, of love, of trust, and faith between us. Let us pray always for one another. Let us pray for the whole world. Let us have a big brotherhood.”


To begin a journey with a joke is very fitting for a pope called Francis.

St. Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant, began his journey to rebuild the church with a joke as well. The only difference was that, in his case, he himself was the joke. Renouncing the world in public, he kicked off his clothes before his bishop and marched off like a mad fool, singing as he went. Francis sallied forth with his soldier spirit to do everything God wanted of him with nothing. And we can be sure that he joined in the laughter. So began that famous ministry of simplicity and charity. Francis was a glad servant to the poor and sick, ever happy in poverty, and ever praising God with poetry as he roamed through God’s own great, substantial poem.

St. Francis followed a Christian extremism, which, unlike other forms of religious extremism, is nothing to be wary of—unless the extreme love for God and duty to neighbor is a cause for concern. In other words, to be a Christian extremist is nothing more than to be extremely Christ-like. St. Francis’ extremism rendered the multitude of stars and beasts his brothers and sisters, every peasant a king, and every stone a building block for a holy edifice. His earthly extremism was characterized by a heavenly optimism.

If anything can come close to summing up St. Francis’ extraordinary character, it may be ventured that he was a gentle man of intense action—which is to say he was an excellent model for a pope. Our new pope, who invites us all to join him in sharing a brotherhood with the whole world, is off to a good, Franciscan start.

Pope Francis, like St. Francis, is well known for his simplicity. He is an unpretentious Prince of the Church, who always preferred to live in a small apartment instead of a palatial residence in Buenos Aires, where he tended to his own needs and rode in public buses instead of private limousines. Like the chivalric Saint of Assisi, our new Pope has worn the colors of Lady Poverty with pride, treasuring her favors as other men treasure barren metals.

As brotherhood was mentioned in his opening remarks in St. Peter’s Square, so does Pope Francis live by the principles of devoted and genuine brotherhood and sisterhood. He was never one to hide behind his clericals, but administered to the sick personally and spoke out in defense of the poor against the burdens imposed by international development. This pope has a voice and it has been the voice of conscience for years—a voice for social justice and peace between liberals and conservatives in the Church. His is a voice that proclaims the realities of brotherhood and friendship in Christ.

Pope Francis also bears the martial attitude of his patron, having fought valiantly against the errors of same-sex marriage and contraception. As Cardinal, he held the orthodox line with regard to abortion, despite criticisms and pressures from Argentinean government officials. As Pope, he can expect criticisms from a much wider audience. With a reputation for a sharp intelligence, pastoral instinct, and humility before God and men, a worthier, savvier head of the Church Militant we could not ask for.

Perhaps most poignant about the message implicit in the selection of the name “Francis,” is the notion of rebuilding a church that has fallen into some disrepair. St. Francis began his journey as a newly born, naked child in heaven’s infantry after praying before a crucifix among the ruins of the church San Damiano. “Francis,” called a voice, “seest thou not that my house is in ruins? Go and restore it for me.” At that moment in Assisi, a young man’s eyes beheld the world and he saw things for the first time as a mystic and a saint. G. K. Chesterton explains this vision in his inspired biography of Francis:

…he sees things go forth from the divine as children going forth from a familiar and accepted home… he hails them with an old familiarity that is almost an old frivolity. He calls them his Brother Fire and his Sister Water.

Now a new Francis has been called by Christ to mind His Church in a way that is at once similar and dissimilar. At that moment in Rome, an old man’s eyes beheld the world and we pray that he now sees things for the first time as Francis. There is good reason to rejoice, for Pope Francis spoke of a vision—a vision of big brotherhood and a joyful journey that we all are bound upon with our crosses gladly slung across our backs.

Let us follow him.

Editor’s note: The image above of St. Francis was painted by Jusepe de Ribera in 1643.

Sean Fitzpatrick


Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four.

  • Johann

    Restaurare Ecclesiam meam. I good start and a good continuation of Benedict XVI’s mission to rebuild the Church which has been often damaged by those who profess its teachings but twist them to fit the modern Zeitgeist.

  • NormChouinard

    I enjoyed how he turned Papal tradition upside down by bowing to the people and asking for their blessing before he blessed them. Looking forward to hearing what he has to say in his first Papal mass. I hope the people organizing the Youth event in Brazil this year have a big enough venue!

    • Alphonsus_Jr

      Note that. This person ENJOYED his turning papal tradition upside down. Such are those processed by the Judas Council.

    • Nathan718

      Please note, he did NOT “bow TO the people” nor did he ask for THEIR blessing. He bowed IN PRAYER and asked the people to pray to God to bless him, then he blessed the people. That might seem like quibbling but the distinction is important. The Pontiff blesses the people, the people asked God to bless the Pontiff.

      • NormChouinard

        Point taken

      • pbecke

        No. The pontiff also asks God to bless people. Different form, same process.

        • Nathan718

          No. It’s a difference in kind, not degree. The same holds for a blessing from a priest vs. from a layman.

  • Bernonensis

    He would have done well to choose St. Francis De Sales as his patron instead. His attempts at humility, if refusing to allow acknowledgment of the dignity due to his office can be called humility, are coming across to some of us as empty gestures of self-indulgence.

    • cestusdei

      I think he was quite dignified. Dignity and humility are not exclusive virtues.

    • me3123

      Wow, you woke up on the wrong side of the bed!

      • Bernonensis

        I got up ad orientem, as usual.

    • Alphonsus_Jr

      Well said. The miserabilism of the leveling democratic infusion born of the Judas Council shouldn’t be confused with genuine humility. Humility is knowing what one is and acting accordingly. A pope is nothing less than the Vicar of Christ. He should present himself accordingly.

      • alejo

        The first pope was a smelly brute cowardly fisherman and Christ choose him inserted of choosing one of the great temple priests of his time. We have created this do called dignity around the pope for our own viewing pleasure. If Christ walked this earth as a poor man from a backwater town then certainly his vicar can show a bit of humility. Pope Bergoglio was always known as being simple. He is being himself. May God grant him many years!

        • Alphonsus_Jr

          Your Hippie Council proletarianism is duly
          noted. The fact is that Jesus Christ has risen and abides in eternal
          glory. His Vicar is to project that glory. This is precisely what
          humility in this situation demands,
          as humility is knowing what one is and acting according to that
          station. Having drunk deeply of the leveling democratic Zeitgeist and
          consequent war against the hierarchy of reality, the architects of the
          Hippie Council have hoodwinked you, and the false humility of the Hippie
          Council and those processed by it have wreaked disaster. A tree is indeed known by its fruit. Speaking of which, the diocese of Buenos Aires is a disaster.

          • Nathan718

            Alphonsus, congratulations! You are officially a Protestant now!! Please continue to judge the Church instead of being lead by Her, otherwise you might end up Catholic.

            • Alecto

              Being led or I prefer instructed/guided by doctrine doesn’t equate with a lack of reasoning or questioning or even criticizing that which has had a deleterious effect on many Catholics. One can make the argument that Vatican II either in its implementation, translation, or whatever disconnect occurred, was used by some very nefarious characters to confuse, conflate, sever Catholics from tradition and a rich history, as well as advance a wholly anti-Catholic agenda. I know how conspiratorial that sounds, but look at the state of the Church in 2013: former Catholics leaving in droves, open schism in the U.S., women trying to get ordained, gay marriage, contraception being used by most Catholics in the First World, Catholics having abortions, pedophile scandals, financial scandals, lack of catechizing of Catholics, base political entanglements. I’m sorry if you do not want to open your eyes, but we’ve got problems, big, big problems, not the least of which is Catholics who do not even attend mass weekly or think that’s necessary! We need someone who isn’t a jellyfish. We need a backbone, a leader, an example, and maybe even a martyr. Humility in its simplest form is submission to the will of God.

              • Bob

                goodness. Everyone relax. He’s been pope for less than 72 hours, can we give the man a chance?

            • Alphonsus_Jr

              Though I reject both sola scriptura and sola fide, the twin pillars of Protestantism, your “Protestant” charge was nevertheless predictable. It’s the the lazy go-to move of those who haven’t done their homework on the Hippie Council and its poisonous fruits. Neocon Hippie Council drones can do nothing other than preach slavish obedience unto death, contrary to the examples given us in Galatians 2 and Acts 4.

              Your “Protestant” charge is also most ironic, as you most likely approve of the Hippie Council’s ecumania, much of which involves collaboration with every brand of heretic, including Protestants (see, e.g., the scandalous Assisi I, II, and III meetings). And I’m certain that, instead of the true Catholic Mass, you attend the Novus Ordo service – a consciously Protestanized (whether in Latin or not) fabrication. Read The Ottaviani Intervention, here: http://tinyurl.com/3ed3ek3

              • Joe DeCarlo

                Well put!! I see more and more people coming around to the way that we think about Vatican II. I’m very surprised and happy!!

                • Alphonsus_Jr

                  One of the best things Catholics today can do is to read:

                  The Catechism of the Crisis in the Church by Fr. Matthias Gaudron

                  • Joe DeCarlo

                    thanks, Alphonsus, I will get that book

                    • Alphonsus_Jr

                      I think you’ll be very glad you did. Millions of blessings to you, sir!

                  • Alphonsus. I sincerely admire your passion and zeal for Holy Mother Church. Thank you for suggesting this book. I had never heard of it & very much look forward to reading it.

                    • Alphonsus_Jr

                      You’re most welcome. It’s essential reading today. I think you’ll agree.

            • Joe DeCarlo

              Alphonsus is a real Catholic, unlike the Novus Ordo Catholics who pick and choose what they want to believe. 50% of Catholics voted for a president who is trying to take religious liberties away from us.

          • Marcelus

            have you been to BA?

      • pbecke

        You don’t have much of a memory for scripture, do you? Don’t you remember Peter’s reaction when a man knelt down before him? And he is known as the Prince of the Apostles!

    • Alecto

      Hmmm, I’m curious, are we allowed to mention humility and Jesuits in the same sentence? 🙂

      • Diego Fernando Ramos Flor

        I would rather say: “are we allowed to mention argentinian and humility in the same sentence?” hahaha, bad joke, really bad joke

  • Jeff

    I think the man is actually human. Welcome, Francis!

  • TheodoreSeeber

    “unless the extreme love for God and duty to neighbor is a cause for concern”

    I have a feeling he’ll be really unpopular in the United States, as our politics is certainly dominated on both the left and the right with skepticism about that kind of extremism.

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  • Alphonsus_Jr

    Yes, look at all this novelty – perfectly in accord with the Judas Council’s insatiable lust for novelty. Will it ever end?

    • jacobhalo

      Alphonsus, I’m with you. Vatican II (good name, Judas Council) was a large factor in the decline of the church. Still, the know-nothings in the church still adhere to its documents.

      • Diego Fernando Ramos Flor

        A poor understanding of Vatican II, not Vatican II per se. Remember that what you’re calling “Judas Council” has been strongly defended by the Church (at least while the last two Popes were in charge, and I’m sure S.S. Francis will continue with it), but warning that we have to take account of our tradition to properly understand it. I hope that’s what you’re thinking while you wrote the previous comments.

        • Joe DeCarlo

          yes, I’m thinking. I thought back when Pope John Paul II kissed the Koran, a false religion. He violated the first commandment. When he allowed other religions to worship their gods in St. Francis of Assisi Church. Are those incidents a part of our tradition?

        • Alphonsus_Jr

          The idea that the rot is due simply to the implementation of the Judas Council rather to the Judas Council itself is neocon nonsense fully refuted in this book:

          The Catechism of the Crisis in the Church by Fr. Matthias Gaudron

          A tree is indeed known by its fruit.

  • hombre111

    We can speculate, but I prefer to wait and see what happens.

  • Facile1

    I prayed that the next Pope would be more like the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

    Pope Francis is Jesuit.

    Having been born in a family of ‘Jesuits’ — father, brothers, uncles, cousins, nephews all raised in ‘Jesuit’ schools — and coming from a country (the Philippines) where ‘Liberation Theology’ has made a great mess of things; my first reaction was to recoil sharply (if not gasp) at the announcement that Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to be elected Pope.

    After frantically reading anything I could find about Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, I ran across his 2012 Letter on the Year of Faith and these (his) words before he was elevated to the Papacy:

    “Crossing the threshold of faith means not being ashamed to have the heart of a child who, because he still believes in impossible things, can live in hope—the one thing that is capable of giving meaning and transforming history. To ask for it without ceasing, to pray without fainting and to adore so as be transfigured by what we contemplate.”

    If we are to change the course of Church History, we need this Pope. Thank God the Holy Spirit saw to it that we got this Pope (even though we had to look hard among the Jesuits for him.)

    • I, too, experienced the same life among Jesuits, having an uncle a Jesuit & graduating from a “Jesuit” university… I drank from their poisonous well of moral/religious relativism and nearly lost my soul in the process.

      Like you, Facile1, I researched all I could on Pope Francis, and when I learned that the Jesuits—his own brothers—had “sent him away,” I breathed a sigh of relief! I also felt comforted by these words from Fr. Fessio (founder of Ignatius Press & Geore Weigel:
      CWN – March 15, 2013
      Father Joseph Fessio, the Jesuit founder of Ignatius Press, said that he was “overjoyed” by the election of Pope Francis.
      “He is a great Jesuit, a traditional one,” Father Fessio said of the Pontiff. “He’s ‘progressive’ in the sense that he loves the poor, and–more importantly–lives a life of simplicity. But he is completely faithful to the Church’s teaching. So he really is a ‘pontifex maximus,’ which is Latin for ‘the greatest bridge builder.’ He bridges the Old World and the New, doctrinal orthodoxy and service to the poor.”

      Likewise, George Weigel wrote that Pope Francis “is an old-school Jesuit, formed by classic Ignatian spirituality and deeply committed to an intelligent, sophisticated appropriation and proclamation of the full symphony of Catholic truth — qualities not notable for their prevalence among members of the Society of Jesus in the early 21st century.”
      Weigel added:

      I suspect there were not all that many champagne corks flying last night in those Jesuit residences throughout the world where the Catholic Revolution That Never Was is still regarded as the ecclesiastical holy grail. For the shrewder of the new pope’s Jesuit brothers know full well that that dream was just dealt another severe blow. And they perhaps fear that this pope, knowing the Society of Jesus and its contemporary confusions and corruptions as he does, just might take in hand the reform of the Jesuits that was one of the signal failures of the pontificate of John Paul II.

      Recalling an hour-long conversation with the future Pope, Weigel hailed him as a “man of God” and a “Pope for the new evangelization” and said that he “had been persecuted by his more theologically and politically left-leaning Jesuit brethren after his term as Jesuit provincial in Argentina (they exiled him to northern Argentina, where he taught high-school chemistry until rescued by John Paul II and eventually made archbishop of Buenos Aires).”

      Additional sources for this story:
      •Fr. Fessio on Pope Francis: “I’m overjoyed” (Catholic World Report) http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/2075/fr_fessio_on_pope_francis_im_overjoyed.aspx

      •George Weigel: The First American Pope (National Review) http://www.nationalreview.com/blogs/print/342964

  • Tony

    Pope Francis is a fellow-traveler with the superb and orthodox Communion and Liberation movement, which, despite what to English ears sounds like a leftist name, is thoroughly devoted to the teachings of the Magisterium and to the unique encounter of man with Christ, through the Church. CL members, many of whom I’ve gotten to know over the years, believe that education in the faith is everybody’s job, the job of a lifetime, and that includes the study of great works of literature and art and music. (The CL people I know wanted me to lead them in their study of the Divine Comedy; these were ordinary people, not college-educated, most of them.) I note with pleasure that Pope Francis’ favorite works include the Divine Comedy, the novels of Dostoyevsky, the greatest Italian (and profoundly Christian) novel, I Promessi Sposi, the poetry of Hoelderlin …
    As for his “style,” one must allow a teacher to use the weapons in his arsenal. Not everybody has the same weapons; but I am sure he’s got them aimed in the right direction.

  • Tony

    Evidence that he’s going to be superb: the miserandi at the NCR have already done a hatchet piece on him and his connections with CL.

  • Thank you, Sean, for this article !! I noticed you are from my hometown!! I was born and raised in Scranton!! Are you familiar with Fr. Eric Bergman? He is a WONDERFUL priest & dear friend. http://www.stmscranton.org/clergy&staff.html I graduated from the University of Scranton. My uncle is a Jesuit. Please, please pray for them.
    I wonder how you ended up in Scranton??? It’s not exactly the bustling town it used to be!! May God bless you and your family abundantly!! And may God bless our beloved church!! †JMJ†

    • STF

      I attend at Fr. Bergman’s parish. He is a very good man. In
      his homily last Sunday, he gave us a striking instance of our new Holy Father’s
      devotion to being a true apostle, telling us how he washed and kissed the feet
      of Aids patients. It will be interesting to see how this pope who doesn’t necessarily
      stand on ceremony will engage the world. What Pope Francis does stand on are
      principles that no Catholic would deny, yet few practice.

  • Joe DeCarlo

    The pope did not hand out communion today, because he,apparently, didn’t want to offend those public officials, Pelosi and Biden, for example. The pope is totally against giving public officials who are pro-death communion. He could have sent a message loud and clear by refusing to give them communion.

  • Marcelus