09 Feliz Cumpleaños - Fr John Rose SJ

posted Jan 4, 2018, 7:46 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 4, 2018, 7:47 AM ]
Querido Papa Francisco 

I had never heard of you before March 13, 2013, let alone the fact that before that, I had never seen your snap. I heard later that you were a papabile in the conclave after the death of Pope John Paul II, and not so considered after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. And the name Giorgio Bergoglio—I found it so difficult to pronounce. That is easy to do now, because almost every day, the bright and comforting light that comes from the Vatican contrasts so radically from what comes, say, out of Washington DC, and needless to say, like so many the world over, I have become your great fan, if not also a great devotee.

It did not take long for me to change perceptions of who you were as a person. It pleasantly jolted me that you chose to be called Francis, not the one of Xavier, but of Assisi, and I was so glad, because I am a lover of nature and have great concerns about ecology. In the milieu I now live in, I feel the need to lead a more simple and natural life, not to edify anybody, but to be, as they say, unencumbered by baggage. And there you go, away from the palatial papal apartments, carrying your own bag, to some room in the Vatican guest house to be its regular resident, your shoes bearing no Gucci or other fashion labels, your shoulders not bearing the ermine cape worn by previous pontiffs, your fisherman's ring not of gold, but of silver, and all this in a style not different from when you were the Archbishop in Buenos Aires. There too, you lived in a small apartment, and not in the Archbishop's palace in an elite section of the city, and you travelled around in public transport and cooked your own meals. The pectoral cross you wore as an Archbishop is the one you still wear as Pope.

It is rather striking that while you live in a way that is poor, there is both richness and practicality to what you advise, and your simplicity can never be mistaken for anything simplistic. From what is written about you in popular Catholic magazines, one could have expected your bearing to be draped with piety and crowned with a halo, but you have a robust look that seems to know what's really happening in the world, and you seem to face it like a tough guy, eyeball to eyeball, and be so much at ease and forthright in either the religious or secular spheres. I wonder how you manage the hounding media with such aplomb, since it is adept at spinning anything out of any utterance made.