And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and the people, this journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another.”
Pope Francis: the first non-European pope in 1,000 years; the first pope from the western hemisphere, from South America; the first Jesuit pope; the first pope ever named Francis.
In his very brief words to the thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, and to the millions who were present via television and social media, the new pope spoke of the “journey.”
When I heard this word, I immediately thought of St. Francis Xavier — the college friend and co-worker of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. More than 450 years ago, Francis Xavier — like his namesake, the new pope, a Spanish-speaking Jesuit — undertook an unprecedented journey that would consume his entire life. A journey of obedience to a call to evangelize: to bring the message of love and truth of Jesus Christ to the far reaches of the world. To India. To Japan. To China, where he died. Francis Xavier pledged his life to this “journey of brotherhood.” In our time, this evangelization of the world — and re-evangelization of many parts of it — is equally urgent. For this reason the Catholic Church is now in the midst of a Year of Faith, and has undertaken the “new evangelization,” in accordance with the Synod of Bishops last fall that was devoted to this profound need.
The simplicity of Pope Francis’s first appearance to pray for and with the throngs of faithful people, young and old, who were expectantly awaiting his appearance was deeply moving. First he led us in praying for his predecessor, Benedict XVI, the primer of Catholic prayers: the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. Then he called us to “begin the journey” with him.
He asked the people gathered in the piazza to pray silently for him, asking for the Lord’s blessing. Instantly a profound stillness fell over the crowd. Then he blessed us all, wherever we were.
May his journey of love, as a shepherd for a very needy flock, be blessed — Ad majorem Dei gloriam, as the Jesuit motto says. For the greater glory of God.
— Helen Hull Hitchcock is editor of the Adoremus Bulletin.