Why Does Pope Francis Lead the Way He Leads?

Why Does Pope Francis Lead the Way He Leads?

Interesting question, right? If you’re looking for an even more interesting answer, read Chris Lowney’s new book called—you guessed it—Why Pope Francis Leads the Way He Leads. Chris is a friend and colleague and knows all about leadership and the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of Francis’s religious order, the Jesuits.

Here are interesting facts I dug up. Of the 265 popes, 35 of them, 13 percent, belonged to religious orders. The last one was 167 years ago, when Gregory XVI, a Camaldolese Benedictine monk, was Bishop of Rome. Papal observers today speak of Francis’s Jesuit identity as if it were a mere curiosity rather than a critical spiritual influence on how he sees himself, his ministry, and the Church.

You can’t appreciate how Francis lives, thinks, and leads unless you understand The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, a 30-day retreat Jesuits make twice. They aim to break attachments to things like clerical privilege, self-serving hierarchy, and antiquated points of view that keep us at a safe distance from the freedom needed to seek and find God’s will. Get this and you’ll get Francis.

A guy who spent his professional life working with bishops once quipped that they were often wrong but never uncertain. On the other hand, the gift Francis offers us is reverence for holy uncertainty—sometimes a temptation, often a grace. Knowing the difference is called discernment, the living heart of Jesuit and Ignatian spirituality.

Image: CNS photo/Paul Harin


About the Author

Joe McHugh is a spiritual director, retreat leader, teacher, and writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the National Catholic Reporter. His book, "Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places" is available at catalog.franciscanmedia.org. He can be contacted at jjmch1300@gmail.com.