The appearance of Pope Francis is certainly a joy for Franciscans everywhere, for all of us who have found in the pattern of Francis of Assisi the fitting and fruitful way to live our Christianity.
But it will also be a challenge.
The new interest in the life and writings of St. Francis will push us to renew our interest as well. We will be called to deepen our own knowledge and reflection, both as a service to Pope Francis's ministry, in whatever way his service and magisterium come to be the authoritative interpretation of the name he has chosen, but also for ourselves who must see in this moment of the Church's earthly pilgrimage a new confirmation of our charism and a new impetus for trying to live it authentically.
I've already received a couple of emails from folks looking for some sense and guidance on what is meant by Franciscan poverty, simplicity, etc.
I feel it in myself, too. How can I understand the Rule? How do I understand myself as someone who has promised the Church and the world that I will observe it until death? As if this question weren't hard enough already, it's complicated even further by Francis's own words in his Testament, when he says, precisely, that we are not to say of the Rule, 'let it be understood in this way.' Fine, the Testament isn't another Rule, and Francis himself says this. But the Testament is supposed to be one the particular Capuchin 'things.'
Not that I have just started to worry about such things, but the coming of Pope Francis has added urgency to my reflection. In that sense, I have to take it as a grace, an invitation of the Holy Spirit.
Most High, Glorious God, bless and protect our Holy Father Francis as he takes up his ministry to all the Churches in the footsteps of your Apostle Peter. May he teach us anew how to walk in the footprint of the most high poverty of the incarnation of your Son, and to embrace with burning love the crucified humanity of this world. Amen.