Pope Francis’s first two weeks have been filled with signs and wonders for those of us who follow Francis of Assisi. In explaining how he came to choose his name, he said, “How I wish for a church that is poor and for the poor.”
All indications are that the decisions he’s made have emerged naturally from the simple life he lived as archbishop and then cardinal of Buenos Aires. He is first and foremost a pastor, now of the universal church. The cross he wears depicts Christ as the good shepherd, surrounded by his flock and carrying the lost sheep.
As we move into the Triduum, the great three days that celebrate the paschal mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, I’m looking forward to more news from Rome, beginning with the pope’s celebration of the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a juvenile correctional institution. This is a man who knows how to live the Gospel!
Here’s an Easter story from the life of St. Francis that helps bring the new pope’s inspiration into focus.
It happened one Easter that the brothers at the hermitage of Greccio prepared the table more carefully than they usually did with white linens and glassware. Coming down from his cell, the father came to the table and saw that it was placed high and decorated extravagantly. But he did not smile at the smiling table. Stealthily and little by little he retraced his steps, put on the hat of a poor man who was there, and taking a staff in his hand, he went outside. He waited outside at the door until the brothers began to eat; for they were in the habit of not waiting for him when he did not come at the signal. When they had begun to eat, this truly poor man cried out at the door; “For the love of the Lord God,” he said, “give an alms to this poor, sick wanderer.” The brothers answered: “Come in, man, for love of him whom you have invoked.” He immediately entered and appeared before them as they were eating. But what astonishment, do you think, the beggar caused these inhabitants? The beggar was given a dish, and sitting alone, he put the dish in the ashes. “Now I am sitting as a Friar Minor should sit,” he said. And to the brothers he said: “We should be moved by the examples of poverty of the Son of God more than other religious. I saw the table prepared and decorated, and I knew it was not the table of poor men who beg from door to door.” This series of actions proves that he was like that other pilgrim who was alone in Jerusalem that day. But he made the hearts of the disciples burn when he spoke to them.