The Way of Pope Francis is the Way of Lent

By Fr. Ted Cassidy, SM

Lent is 40 days of fasting, prayer and sharing so that we open ourselves to the presence of Christ in us and all around us. At the end of his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love, Pope Francis says that all of us are called to something greater than ourselves. In his daily homilies I recognize how he calls us to pull the best out of ourselves. Lent is the retreat of the Church when we learn to do this.

In his biography of the pope, The Great Reformer, Austen Ivereigh demonstrates the method of Francis. (Picador, Holt, NY, 2014). From his past life and from the Pope’s present actions and speaking we can garner where Francis gets his strength. It comes from his gift of being able to use in prayer his personal human qualities so well with the Jesuit formation he has absorbed in the Jesuit Spiritual Exercises.

The Jesuit Exercises are the methods that St. Ignatius, the Jesuit Founder, developed. They consist of going into very authentic prayer with the life of Jesus and the human situations we face. By grasping what Jesus taught and by being open to the absolute truth of what is happening to us we are given in prayer the gift of God’s Spirit to show us the way in our lives.

As a priest, Jesuit Provincial and Bishop Jorge Bergoglio mastered this method in dealing with very many torturous situations, especially when the military and the guerillas were placing the Church in Argentina in the middle of many conflicts.

The core of Francis’s method is to find where love is operating at the center of every situation. God is love and we are invited to find the joy and solution that love, without fail, invites us to participate in. Francis has excellent personality qualities that enable him to grasp involved problems very intelligently. He has been gifted with a personal way of relating that which warms the hearts of those he encounters. Yet on deeper levels he seeks to operate with the same love that God has for all and in all human relations.

He expresses himself very cordially with a faith and hope that indicates what he is saying and doing comes from an authentic love. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, the four Americans Pope Francis referred to in his speech to the United States Congress, were models of using this means to live and act on love. They were not perfect yet the facts of their lives show that they had the courage and gifts to tackle tremendous situations and lead the way out of them as the Love of God directed them. Despite terrific obstacles they maintained a faith and hope that they were leading in the right direction.

It is a foolproof method to live in joy, this Jesuit method of prayer that delves into the life and message of Jesus while seeking to grasp what is going on within us. Authentic answers, solutions, directions, and actions come from the grace and the integrity of this method of prayer. In imitating Francis’s method in Lent by our prayer, denial and sharing, we discover how love brings us to pull the best out of ourselves and all things around us. Thank you Pope Francis for so joyfully showing this to us.

Edited by: Ben Swick

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