Mar 142013

The new pope took the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he is a lover of the poor, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Tom Rosica told CNN.

Also, the new pope should be known as Pope Francis, not Pope Francis I, Rosica said.

Well if that is accurate it is very interesting. So we can add to the list of firsts concerning Pope Francis. He is now also the first Pope to take his name from other than a bishop or really even a priest. In the first millennium of the Church the majority did not have a new regnal name, but kept their own name. When regnal names first started to be used with John II the name was taken from either an Apostle or a previous pope.

St. Francis himself was a Deacon and as the Catholic Encyclopedia says.

So great, indeed, was Francis’s reverence for the priesthood, because of its relation to the Adorable Sacrament, that in his humility he never dared to aspire to that dignity.

So we have a Pope named after a Deacon. This might seem odd and it struck me that way at first, but really it is also highly appropriate. Since “Deacon” means “servant” and one of the pope’s titles is “Servant of the servants of God (Latin: servus servorum Dei).”

So far from what I have read the new Pope’s humility is rather obvious and lived out. It also takes a rather audacious humility to choose St. Francis as a regnal name. A name rather hard to live up to as St. Francis so closely imaged Christ. Yet really that is what we are all called to do. Plus it is not that we try to imitate some saint, but that we imitate Jesus who they tried to image.

There has been a lot of stories about Pope Francis’s humility and it is interesting the way the media has focused on this fairly positively. It is quite a contrast to the media’s normal focus and endorsement of celebrities whose lives rarely show a well-developed virtue of humility. It is also a contrast regarding the coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI where his humility was really never highlighted as it should have been.

Hopefully the Pope in a General Audience will be giving specific reasons as to the choice of his name as the last two popes have. I would not be surprised if the choice also indicated other Francises while primarily focusing on St. Francis of Assisi.

  3 Responses to “What’s in a name?”

  1. […] From Curt Jester:  […]

  2. I’m pretty sure there’s been a Pope Stephan (sp?), after St. Stephan in Acts. 🙂

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