After not much longer than a day in voting—5 ballots in total-- the white smoke surged from the most famous chimney in the world, announcing that the new Pope had been elected in the Conclave by the Cardinals. After about an hour of suspense, the glorious moment arrived—the windows of the Vatican flew open and there to the surprise of many (Our God is a God of mystery and surprise) the new Pope, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff appeared!

Surprises!   There were many “firsts”!  The first Latin-American Pope, the first Argentinian Pope, the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope to launch his pontificate with only one lung, the first Pope to be chosen on a “13, 13” (March 13th , year 2013!) and finally the first Pope to choose a new name as Pope FRANCIS!!!!    Our God is a God of surprises; our God is a God of  Mystery and surprises us with mysteries!
FRANCIS? WHY? AND WHO?   Indeed “Francis” is a common name in English, as well as all the Latin languages. Saints with the name of “Francis”? Indeed there are quite a few: St. Francis Xavier (friend and considered by many co-founder of the Jesuits and greatest missionary after St Paul), St. Francis Solano ( one of the patron saints of Argentina,  St. Francis Paoli, and little Blessed Francis Marto(one of the Fatima seers); finally, SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI.
Of this multitude of “Francis’, one seems to capture the charism, the spirituality and apostolic thrust of the new Pope Francis--- that is, SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI!  Why?  In the New Holy Father’s address to the Representatives of the Communications Media on Saturday, March 16th in the Paul VI Audience Hall, the Pope explains the reason why--- SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI! Let us read, meditate and pray over his words!
Saint Francis gives his cloak to a poor man.
“Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis. I will tell you the story. During the election, I was seated next to Archbishop Emeritus of Sao Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation of the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Humes: a good friend, a good friend! And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don’t forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relation with creation, do we?  He is this man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man… How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!”  (Address of the Holy Father Pope Francis to the Representatives of the Communications Media, March 16, 2013).
Indeed St. Francis exemplifies and encourages the Pope as well as all true followers of Christ to embrace an authentic attitude of life imbued with the Gospel spirit of poverty.   The first of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reiterates the spirit of poverty as blessed, indeed as a true blessing:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  (Mt. 5:3)
Shortly after exalting poverty and the “Poverello of Assisi” Pope Francis highlighted the foundation of his Petrine ministry in an unequivocal and concise assertion: JESUS CHRIST IS THE CENTER!!!!
“Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as hid Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Yet Christ remains the center, not the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Christ is the fundamental point of reference, the heart of the Church. Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist nor have reason to exist.  As Benedict XVI frequently reminded us, Christ is resent in Church and guides her…
As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio gave evident witness to true evangelical, Franciscan poverty. He chose to live in a simple apartment; decided to cook for himself; still more he opted against his own expensive car and preferred to wait for the Argentinian busses (called “Collectivos”) so as to mix, associate and be with the poor people of his country and the whole world!
Therefore Pope Francis points to Saint Francis who points to Jesus Christ as the essential point of reference for the Church, as the Way, the Truth and the Life and the Model for all to follow!  Why not spend a few moments to meditate and contemplate the poverty of Jesus and  by means of  this meditation to lead us into a serious examination of our own lives to see if we indeed have accepted, embraced and made the firm purpose and determination of the will to live out evangelical poverty, which indeed is truly the freedom of the sons of God!

The Brilliant Example of the Poverty of Jesus
Jesus was rejected even before He was born--- “No room for Him in the Inn!!!” Place of Birth? Not a castle, palace or royal and splendid mansion! Rather, born into abject poverty, a stable where animals sought refuge against the inclement weather of the year! As Venerable Fulton J. Sheen so poignantly expresses it: “The Creator of the Universe had no place to be born in His own creation!”
Humble and poor parents--- St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the anawim—the poor of Yahweh! There abode? A poor, simple, humble, frugal home in the town of Nazareth.  As Nathanael expressed with surprise, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

HIS WORK?  Not a university professor, nor wealthy millionaire, nor hi-tech CEO of some successful company; rather, He was a simple craftsman that we call “Carpenter”. Jesus, as an apprentice, had to be taught the art of the carpenter by watching and listening to Saint Joseph: sawing, molding, fitting, adjusting, and nailing (three of these would pierce His Sacred flesh years later!)

HIS FOLLOWERS?   None of them had a higher education; none of them appeared to be a genius; all of them manifested glaring human defects; many of them were the simplest of fisher-men, called by Jesus to become “Fishers of men! Poor men to carry out the most sublime of missions--- to save souls!

HIS LODGING/ABODE IN HIS THREE YEARS OF PUBLIC MINISTRY?   Where was His headquarters? Where did He live? Where was His resting place at the end of days with intense work—such that at times there was not even enough time for Him and the Apostles to so much as eat? Where did he lay His head at night? The Gospel in a few words tells us!   He had no permanent home—a wandering itinerant preacher, relying on God in every moment. The proof is in these few words that Jesus said:  “The foxes have their holes and the birds their nests but the son of man has no place to rest His head.” What extraordinary poverty? Imagine wandering from place to place, no money in your belt and no place to stay--- not for a day, not a week, but for three long years!!! Poverty and absolute Trust in God to the max!   Behold the life of Our Lord, God and Savior!
HIS PASSION AND DEATH?   To truly plumb the depths of the utter and abject poverty of Jesus, our contemplative gaze must be lifted up to The Suffering and poor servant of God, Jesus the Lord in His Passion and death!  Meditate and contemplate His Passion and death--- as Saint Ignatius highlights that He suffered for love of you and me—with the deepest sentiments of gratitude and love!

Betrayed by an Apostle whom He called “Friend “and allowed the kiss (Judas); and denied three times by Peter—what extreme poverty of affection!

ASLEEP WHEN MOST NEEDED!  In His bitter Agony, His best friends abandoned Him by capitulating to sleep--- poverty of friendship!
SCOURGED AT THE PILLAR!  Deprived of His clothes, deprived of his human dignity, deprived of His Precious Blood in huge quantities, deprived of love by sarcastic sneers (Remember the Film of Mel Gibson). Poverty to the utmost!
CROWNING WITH THORNS.   Bound like a cruel and vile criminal, blindfolded, deprived of the light for His eyes, slapped and punched and spat upon in His face and crowned with sharp thorns piercing and penetrating the skull even to the brain--- poverty of the mind!

THE CRUCIFIXION. Of course the Crucifixion of Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ manifests to the highest degree the total poverty of Jesus the Lord.

·        Nails piercing His Sacred hands and feet; depriving Him of the freedom to even move His body.

·        SACRED BLOOD. His Precious Blood pouring forth from the five wounds, even to the last drop. His Sacred Heart pierced with the lance, even after His death! His Sacred Blood drained to the last drop, like a sponge ring dry!

·        MY FRIENDS? Accept for the “Beloved Disciple Saint John”, due to fear, all of His Apostles abandoned Him.

·         BREATHING. To inhale and to exhale caused in Jesus excruciating pains; such that at the end He could barely breath--- deprivation of even His life’s breath, what total poverty in the One who gives us all. “In Him we live, and move and have our being.”

·        THE VISION AND AWARENESS OF GOD THE FATHER.  As if His physical suffering were not sufficient, Jesus experienced in the depths of His soul the most intense of all sufferings—what St. John of the Cross calls, “The Dark Night of the soul”.   In these words of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me???” As Venerable Fulton Sheen explains, in His Human Nature there existed an “Eclipse” ,in which Jesus for a short time in His Passion, was deprived of the Face of His Heavenly Father! Behold poverty to the most profound limits! Even His Heavenly Father seemed to have abandoned Him!!!!

·        JESUS’ BURIAL!  Finally Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimithea took Jesus’ body and buried it in a borrowed tomb--- not even the tomb of Jesus!
Let us peacefully meditate on the challenge and call to poverty of Pope Francis. Let us recall the extraordinary example of Saint Francis of Assisi. Finally let us contemplate the Words, birth, life and death of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By means of this meditation, let us accept the challenge to look into the depths of our own hearts, homes, lives, and style of life and strive to live out the Gospel mandate and imperative! “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:3)  Still more, the first words of Jesus in His public ministry: “Be converted for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mk. 1:15) May Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, encourage us to embrace poverty, with the firm conviction that our treasure awaits us in heaven!
Mary, You who lived a life of humility and earthly poverty, please give us the graces necessary so that we may join you, the Angels, the Saints and your Son in eternal glory!