Franciscans and the new Pope

The more I know about the Franciscans the more impressed I am. Francis of Assisi, one the most fascinating characters in Christian history, is the founder of the order. His story is interesting and important. The son of a wealthy merchant, a mercenary soldier who wasn’t very good at fighting and ended up in prison, he decided one day in 1209 to give away all his belongings, even the clothes he was wearing, and to try to follow Jesus literally. He attracted followers and the organization and movement that emerged in the early 13th century is still known as the Order of Friars Minor. Franciscans model their lives on the example and teachings of Francis of Assisi. A friend and devotee, Clare of Assisi, is the founder of the Order of St. Clare, or “Poor Clares”, as they are known.

With their radical devotion to the poor and their conspicuous Christ-like alternative to the hierarchical, wealthy and politically powerful medieval Church, the Franciscans and Poor Clares attracted followers and gained influence. Their very visible presence, and radical obedience to Jesus was a leaven in the loaf of the traditional church, and still is.

The popular prayer of St. Francis may not actually be his creation, but it does reflect his spirit and the movement he began.

Lord, Make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair,hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I am greatly encouraged that the new Pope, a Jesuit from Argentina, chose the name Francis, and his earliest public gestures – declining to live in the Papal Palace, riding a bus with other clergy, are very promising. Last week, in a dramatic departure from his predecessor, he spoke generously and graciously about gay clergy and gays in general, and refused to judge personally and repeat the harsh Roman Catholic official position of homosexuality as inherently sinful. It is still early in his term, but I am hopeful that there may be a new openness and gentleness, in the spirit of the 13th century monk whose name he chose for his own.

I have been reading and very much enjoying the books and daily devotions of of a contemporary Franciscan, Richard Rohr. Rohr founded the Center for Contemplation and Action in Albuquerque, and speaks and writes widely about contemplation, spirituality and social action. He’s my kind of thinker. His prayer for August 3 is worth keeping at hand for regular use.

Loving God, we love how you love us. We love how you free us. We love what you have given and created to surround us. Help us to recognize, and rejoice in, what has been given, even in the midst of what is not given. Help us not to doubt all that you have given us, even when we feel our very real shortcomings. We thank you for the promise and sign of your love in the Eternally Risen Christ, pervading all things in the universe, unbound by any of our categories of logic or theology.
We offer ourselves back in return. We offer you our bodies, our little lives, our racing minds and restless hearts into this wondrous circle of Love that is You. My life is no longer just about me, but it is all about You. Amen.


  1. Thomas J. Boodell, Jr. says:

    John Buchanan: What a treat to read your post about the new Pope, Francis. I was excited to hear thename when it was first announced, and to learn he is the first Pope in the history of the Papacy to take the name Francis. Where have we Roman Catholics been all these years. Then I learned that Pope Francis is the first Jesuit in history to be elected a Pope. As Harry Carey would say “Holy Cow!!!!!” Tom Boodell

    P.S. My amazing secretary Sue Felty first told me about your blog and that you had mentioned our new Pope, Francis. I look forward to reading “Hold to the Good” on a regular basis. Thanks for all you do and have done for our City and its people of all faiths and nationalities.

    Thomas J. Boodell, Jr.
    Boodell & Domanskis, LLC
    353 North Clark Street
    Suite 1800
    Chicago, IL 60654
    Phone: 312-938-4050
    cell: 312-498-4045
    Direct fax: 312-300-5529
    Fax: 312-540-1162
    * Please note change of address

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