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Friday, March 15, 2013

Benedictines, Franciscans, Jesuits - 2

After the white smoke and the announcement of Pope Francis I's papal name, early commentators confidently asserted that the Pope was thinking of Francis Xavier, co-founder with Ignatius of Loyola of the Society of Jesus. This would have been much less interesting, because the new pope is a Jesuit, the first Jesuit pope. 

They say about the biblical scribes that they pursued the principle of lectio difficilior potior – the reading that is harder to understand is the more powerful (interesting) – and is also more likely to be dismissed by an unimaginative scribe. Calling himself after Francis Xavier would have been a sectarian assertion.

It turns out that Pope Francis named himself after St. Francis of Assisi, who with his follower St. Anthony of Padua created the Franciscans to minister to the poor and get back in touch with the natural world. This is much more interesting, and is in line what we know about the life of Pope Francis. That a Jesuit named himself after the founder of a less worldly order speaks doubly for inclusion – both of other points of view and of the least powerful.

The Capuchin (as in cappuccino coffee) friars are super-Franciscans who reformed the reformers. It is said that Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley, the sole Capuchin in the College of Cardinals, decided to bring together the various orders for some silo-breaking. The facilitator of the conference was a well-known TV personality who arrived in a Bentley.

A Benedictine at the conference reportedly turned to a Franciscan next to him and asked him humorously: "How many novenas would you imagine it would take for a struggling monastery to acquire a Bentley?" The Franciscan looked at him blankly and asked, "What's a Bentley?" The Jesuit next to him asked, "What's a novena?"

Later on, the auditorium lights suddenly went off. The Benedictine in attendance started singing "Salve Regina" to ask Mary to intercede to get the lights on again. The Franciscan went outside and led others in singing "If I had a hammer" and other inspiring folk songs. The Jesuit took out a flashlight, checked the circuit-breaker, examined the wires, found the bad connection, repaired it, then switched the breaker back to "ON". VoilĂ !