being a protector … means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world … It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. –Francis, Bishop of Rome
Today at a Mass celebrating the start of his ministry as Pope Francis I, the new pope addressed those gathered with words remembering St. Joseph as a ‘protector’ of Jesus and Mary (and in later centuries, a protector of the Church). These words especially give me hope:
The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
“How I would like a church that is poor, and for the poor.”
In my lifetime this has been the official position of the Roman Catholic Church. What is new is that these are the unscripted words of a pope who has cooked his own meals, rode the bus to work, and walked in the slums of Buenos Aires. Perhaps the way the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is daily lived by its pope is about to change.
Thomas Reese (a Jesuit priest and Vatican observer) begins his short article in the National Catholic Reporter this way, “In picking the name Francis, the new pope sent his first message to the world, but what is that message? Four possibilities come to mind, and perhaps they are all true.”
He then describes the possibilities:
First, St Francis of Assisi was known for his life of poverty.
Second, early in his career, St. Francis heard a message from God: “Rebuild my church.”
Third, Francis was also famous for his love of animals and nature.
Finally, Francis was known for his peaceful and positive attitude toward Islam.
He concludes, “Yes, there is a lot to learn from a name.”