“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” the interviewer asked. “I am a sinner,” the pope replied. “It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” So begins the famous interview with Pope Francis, surely the deepest look into the mind of a pope that the church has ever seen.
Pope Francis’s thinking is drenched in Ignatian spirituality. To learn about discernment, about finding God in all things, about gratitude and hope, about seeing oneself as a sinner redeemed by the love of God—read and study the interview.
I’m struck by what the pope says about discernment. It’s an Ignatian buzzword that gets tossed around easily. It sometimes has the aura of an all-purpose solution to life’s mysteries, a panacea—apply Ignatius’s rules for discernment to your pressing questions and you’ll find your way. Pope Francis regards discernment as time-consuming, communal, and as something that often yields surprising and tentative answers. He says, “the wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong.”
There’s also something mysterious about discernment. It’s bound up with the intersection of the eternal and everyday worlds. It has something to do with a connection between the grand and the mundane. He says that the Ignatian spirit is captured by a Latin proverb: Non coerceri a maximo, contineri tamen a minimo, divinum est: “Not to be daunted by the greatest enterprise, yet to invest oneself in the smallest one, this is divine.” He says that large results can be obtained through small steps.
Elsewhere in the interview the pope likens the church to a field hospital after a battle. “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity,” he says. A pope has never been closer to us.