Among those ironic twists of fate or unpredictable wanderings of the Holy Spirit, depending upon how you look at it, it's been one of the great privileges of my life during the last decade to have been influenced by and become friends with some Jesuits. They have been extravagantly generous with their brilliance, their knowledge, their pastoral presence, and their encouragement. There is no question whatever that I would not be a pastor today, nor would I have survived (in the most literal sense of the word) my son's death without their Spiritual Exercises and their personal support, attentiveness, concern, and help during what I surely hope will turn out to have been the darkest period of my life.
The Jesuits with whom I correspond generally simply sign their names at the ends of their emails and notes, but one of them always signs his as "Bill SJ." And I am always touched by that signature at the bottom of a page, as it bespeaks such a commitment to and identification with the 450-year-old Society of Jesus.
And so I feel an unexpected connection to this new pope. I haven't paid much attention to what's been going on in Rome; most of my very brief updates have come from, ironically again, members of my first Presbyterian church, who are on a long-planned journey to Rome during this of all weeks. But the news of a Jesuit pope -- yes, to that I'm attentive.
I'm still wondering whether the Francis refers to Assisi or Xavier -- one of my friends responded to that question on FB with the words "both/and." ! (See my previous completely unrelated post.) I don't have the impression that the newscasters have a clue, but they've heard more about the former saint than the latter.
At any rate, we are perhaps about to get a lesson on the complexities of faith and the hopelessness of labels with respect thereto. The poor in Argentina? The right-wing dictatorship? Gay marriage? The celibate priesthood? The words are flying on the news. And, finally, someone on CNN has just uttered the name "Francis Xavier."
I have hopes for this pope, and I had not expected that. (The unexpected ~ a sign of the Spirit laboring, yes?) From what I know of the men formed by the Spiritual Exercises, we have every reason to expect a profound depth of intellect and an expansive pastoral capacity. So, yes ~ high hopes.