What They're Saying about Pope Francis

Like you, I’ve been reading a lot of commentary about Pope Francis in the past week.  I thought I’d pass along four pieces that seem especially enlightening.  All four concern themselves with the question that I’m most interested in: What can we expect from a Jesuit pope?

In “This Ignatian Franciscan Pope,” Tim Muldoon looks at the connection between Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola.

Ignatius’s order was an order of mission, with a special vow to serve wherever the pope asked them to go. Adding a Franciscan dimension to that sense of mission suggests to me a pope who wants the Church to be agile in its ministry to the poor, to serve as Christ served. For those who long for a retreat from the vestiges of triumphalism, this is welcome news.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Kevin O’Brien, SJ, says that Pope Francis’s Ignatian formation will bring a change in papal style and a distinct sense of mission:

In recent decades, Jesuits have reflected on their identity and mission in the modern world. They chose to describe themselves as sinners, loved by God. Grateful and humble, they leave this divine embrace to serve the needs of the world and the Church that are not being met by others. To be a Jesuit today, again in their own words, is to be committed to the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an essential part. As a teacher of young Jesuits and later as superior of men in his native Argentina, Francis was steeped in this animating spirit.

In the Harvard Business Review, Chris Lowney takes the opportunity to write about the examen prayer–“A Simple Ritual for Harried Managers (and Popes).” Like all Jesuits, Pope Francis prays this way.  It can help every busy person:

During those few minutes, do three things. First, remind yourself why you are grateful as a human being. Second, lift your horizon for a moment. Call to mind some crucial personal objective, or your deepest sense of purpose, or the values you stand for. Third, mentally review the last few hours and extract some insight that might help in the next few hours. If you were agitated, what was going on inside you? If you were distracted and unproductive, why?

Finally, I’m quite struck by “How Movements Recover” by David Brooks of the New York Times.  Brooks says that movements (or churches) in crisis face two choices: to turn inward and be defensive, or to move aggressively forward. Referencing a crisis in the fourth century, he writes:

How do you revive a movement in crisis. The natural instinct is to turn Donatist, to build an ark and defend what’s precious. The counterintuitive but more successful strategy is to follow Augustine, to exploit a moment of weakness by making yourself even more vulnerable, by striking outward into complexity, swallowing the pure and impure, counterattacking crisis with an evangelical assault.

Brooks suspects that Francis thinks like Augustine.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.



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