At Large

Prayers for Pope Francis


About the best thing about the new Pope is the name he chose. “Francis,” it’s said, is his tribute to St. Francis of Assisi as well as to St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit like Jorge Mario Cardinal Borgoglio, who strode into history in the early morning hours as the first non-European Pope in centuries.

Perhaps the new Pope will explain the reasons for his choice in due time. But the lives led by the two Saints Francis are hopeful indicators of the direction his papacy may take.

Francis of Assisi renounced his wealthy familial origins to found an order devoted to meditation, preaching and, most important of all, to poverty and simplicity, to bringing back the Church to its humble origins as a persecuted Church. He is honored today as the patron saint of animals (his feast day is marked by a blessing of animals) and of the environment, romanticized in the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.”

Francis Xavier, on the other hand, is one of the seven original followers of St. Ignatius of Loyola who founded the Society of Jesus. Francis Xavier is best known as the “missionary to the Orient,” who led evangelical missions to India and Japan, and died while waiting for permission to enter China where he was to establish a mission.

Already, the Argentinian Pope has set an example reminiscent of Francis of Assisi. The first news reports say that although he is the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he has refused to live in the opulent official quarters near the cathedral but instead chose to dwell in a tiny apartment, doing all the cleaning and cooking himself. He apparently abjures all pomp and ceremony, taking the public bus to work and discussing with his fellow passengers matters weighty (like the future of the Church) and flighty (like the meal he was planning for dinner that evening).

And he would do well to follow the example of Francis Xavier, reaching out to the then unknown reaches of the world to preach and evangelize, daring to face the unfamiliar and sacrificing his health and life to bring the Word to all corners of the earth.

* * *

I take comfort, too, in the new Pope’s gesture of humility before the huge crowd gathered in the piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Bowing before them, he begged for their prayers, asking in a way for their moral support which, given all the problems he faces and the controversies hounding the Catholic Church today, he most certainly needs.

We still don’t know the full extent and meaning of Pope Francis’ election. We will see in due time what stuff this Argentinean is made of. He has been described in news reports as essentially a conservative on social issues (abortion, divorce, gay rights) but a priest with a common touch who risked his own position in trying to help victims of the Dirty War that plunged Argentina into a violent, low-intensity conflict.

Still, there are those who say the new Pope did not do enough as leader of the Jesuit Order in Argentina and as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in defending the victims of the rightist regime. But doubtless, this experience has armed him with an awareness of the need to balance politics and faith, to weigh the use of the Church’s moral leverage against human rights abuses and injustice, even within the Church itself.

Any new pope has two duties confronting him: securing the verities of the faith and preserving the institution itself, while seeking new directions in the light of contemporary developments and emerging issues. These two duties are not just different, but even contradictory at times. Pope Francis certainly needs all the prayers from the faithful, even as we keep tabs on this new papacy.

* * *

Young people these days seem very comfortable with technology and the “new media.” My own two-year-old grandnephews already know how to move the “open” tab on their parents’ iPads and access their favorite games, even those in smart phones. They also beat the adults in “Cut the Rope” and “Angry Birds” games. Their parents, meanwhile, confess to not buying newspapers and magazines anymore, getting their news and gossip from websites like Facebook and Instagram, and Twitter incessantly.

On the other hand, I can still remember working on manual typewriters and lugging a heavy portable version whenever I had to travel. Once abroad, I would search high and low for fax or telex services to send my reports and columns. Then I got a PC, and at first I would drive all the way to the Inquirer offices to deliver the “diskette” with my column. Then this paper established a modem service which allowed me (and other staff members) to work from home. This worked fine until e-mail arrived, and transmitting our “content” became as painless and as quick as hitting a few keys on the keyboard.

But the rest of the computing world has since moved on, and I must confess that at this point in time, and in my life, I have just about given up on keeping up.

* * *

This occurred to me during dinner with the founders and managers of “Arkipel,” which provides “virtual computing services” to establishments like schools and colleges, sales and storage firms and other institutions.

Describing itself as a “service integration firm,” Arkipel allows clients to create, store, access and share data without having to spend valuable capital on expensive hardware like servers, monitors, and desktops, and hiring an entire IT team.

I confess they lost me when they got to talking about keeping data in a virtual “cloud,” but I understand that their aim is to provide full computing services to big or small firms with flexibility and convenience.

To find out more about this service, check on the company’s website: www.arkipel.net.

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Tags: Catholic Church , Jorge Mario Bergoglio , Pope Francis , Religion , Vatican

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