Pope Francis’ words and actions have had a profound impact on countless people of various backgrounds, interests, and beliefs. In the interviews for my upcoming documentary, The Francis Impact, I’ve heard some beautiful and concrete testimonies of this. So I created #TFIMOMENTS, a web series to share some of these profound and personal moments of connection with the pope.
Ask someone about their most memorable image of Pope Francis and you’ll likely hear this: “When he walked out onto the balcony dressed in a simple white cassock, bowed his head, and asked the people to pray over him!”
Time and time again people make reference to that historic moment on the evening of March 13, 2013. Watching it in real time, none of us could have predicted the direction Francis’ papacy would take. But looking back now after more than five years, the events of that evening clearly set a tone for what was to come.
For Franciscans like Fr. Dan Horan
, the moment was extra special: the first time in history the Successor of Peter chose his name after the founder of their religious community, Francis of Assisi.
What strikes Fr. Dan and so many others about the pope is what strikes so many about the life of St. Francis: his simplicity. “What we see with Pope Francis is a ‘throwing away’ of all the ‘extra’; all of those things that people seem to view as important according to the logic of the world,” says Fr. Dan in this #TFImoment
That same quality is what St. Francis of Assisi is so well known for: a seemingly reckless abandonment of material wealth and fine clothes to live an ascetic life in communion with God and creation. (Pope Francis doesn’t wear rags per se, but he’s been spotted with frayed sleeves).
Some commentators read into the pope’s simplicity a revolt against Church traditions or at least a snubbing of those Catholics who enjoy the “finer things” of the faith. But if Pope Francis is true to his namesake, his adopted simplicity has deeper roots: to free himself from worldly things to try to be closer to God.
People may look at the pope’s detachment and think he’s a bit crazy, as some people think St. Francis was crazy. But the real choice in both cases is not made out of a philosophical proposition or ideological impulse. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in his little book on St. Francis of Assisi
“A man will not roll in the snow for a stream of tendency by which all things fulfil the law of their being. He will not go without food in the name of something, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness. He will do things like this, or pretty like this, under quite a different impulse. He will do these things when he is in love.”
For more information about The Francis Impact visit the official webpage.
Next #TFImoment: Kate Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day and author of Dorothy Day: The World Will be Saved by Beauty