“So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).” (Jn 1:42)
During the first centuries of the Church, Popes were known by their baptismal name. However, almost every Pope has taken a “Papal” name since about the year 530 with the election of Mercurius who chose to be known as John II.
Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio has elected to take the name Francis. Until the Holy Father explains why he has chosen this name, there will be a lot of conjecture. So, I might as well add my own opinion.
I believe that Pope Francis I has taken the name Francis with two great saints in mind – St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis Xavier. Both of these saints may summarize the work the Pope Francis is faced with.
Francis of Assisi was born in 1181 or 1182 to a very wealthy cloth merchant Pietro and Pica Bernadone. Francis lived the wild life and as many young men of his time desired to go off to the knighthood. However, during the war, Francis became ill and imprisonment, he returned to his parents home. It was during this illness that Francis Bernadone had a major conversion. Not long after Francis’ recovery he was at prayer in the now famous chapel of San Damiano. While Francis prayed, he heard our Lord’s voice coming from the cross say: “Go and repair my Church which is falling into ruins.”
Pope Francis faces the same situation. He may not have heard and audible voice or locution, but anyone who lives today knows the great problems that our Church faces. The new Holy Father is faced with the continuing problem of the abuse crisis, dwindling numbers of Catholics attending Mass regularly or receiving any of the Sacraments, the culture of death, the attack on the family, the secret file on the Vatican Leaks that awaits him in the safe in the Papal apartments, plus a whole range of other internal problems.
St. Francis Xavier, born in 1506, to a family of nobility. Francis’ meeting with Ignatius of Loyola changed his life forever. He was one of the founding members of the Jesuit order. The one desire of Francis Xavier was to evangelize the the peoples of the far east. He became a missionary to India and Japan. St. Francis Xavier is credited with converting over 40,000 people. Francis Xavier endured great personal sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel, a sacrifice that eventually took his life.
I believe Pope Francis also sees the importance of the New Evangelization. The work this Pope has to face is great. He will have to reform & renewal the Roman Curia and the entire Church while continuing to foster and strengthen the New Evangelization.
The good news is that Pope Francis I is not alone. Each one of us needs to reform our own lives and continue the work of the New Evangelization. Let us pray for Francis I, that he may have the courage to face the great task at hand!