POPE FRANCIS March 17, 2013 5TH SUNDAY LENT Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
March 17, 2013
5TH SUNDAY LENT
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 17, 1936. His father emigrated from Italy and married a woman of Italian descent in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the age of 21, after he had earned a degree in chemistry, Jorge Bergoglio entered the Jesuit novitiate where he trained in the spiritual life for two years, studied the Roman and Greek classics, then philosophy. As usual in the Society of Jesus, he taught in high school for three years before advancing to theological studies. He received the sacrament of Holy Orders in 1967.
Father Bergoglio advanced quite rapidly among the Jesuits. By 1973, he was named provincial, superior of the Jesuits in a large district. Usually, three hundred Jesuits would constitute a large number for a provincial to oversee. A provincial visits each Jesuit individually for perhaps one hour. Also, the provincial would visit each established community and each church. Further, a Fr. Provincial assigns each Jesuit to a specific post, sending one to teach in a school, another to continue his studies perhaps in France or in the United States or in Argentina, and another Jesuit as principal or as president of a university. So Fr. Bergoglio had a large responsibility at age 37. He served as provincial until 1979, a regular six year term.
Having served as provincial, Fr. Bergoglio became the rector of the Jesuit seminary at Villa Devoto where he again served a six year term, this time serving as Dean while also emphasizing the religious culture for those young Jesuits studying philosophy and theology. At the conclusion of this time, he lived for some months at Frankfurt in Germany, at a seminary where my brother studied theology.
In 1992 he became Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires. That is unusual, because Jesuits are by their Constitution dissuaded from becoming a bishop in large cities. However, six years later, he became bishop of that great city, and three years later he was created Cardinal.
Perhaps some wonder about the distinction among priests. Most priests serve in a diocese such as Seattle or Yakima or Spokane; these priests answer immediately to the diocesan bishop. Other priests belong to a religious order such as Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Jesuits. These religious order priests answer to a Fr. Provincial, and these move across diocesan lines, even into various nations. While all of these are ordained priests, the diocesan and religious priests have diverse training and diverse cultures. On becoming a bishop, a religious priest no longer responds to a Fr. Provincial, but receives episcopal directives from the Vatican. Pope Francis, of course, ceases to be bound by the Jesuit constitution. Nonetheless, his early training and outlook—it is true of all of us—will continue to affect his attitude.
He has written a dozen books on religious topics. These books—all in Spanish—bear such titles as Meditations for Religious People, Reflections for Hope, and Ourselves as People, Ourselves as a People towards a Bicentennial in Justice and Solidarity. Publications often affect many people in diverse situations, so writing tends to be supported by Jesuits. I suppose that now these titles will soon be translated into English.
In 1986, we could have watched a first run movie entitled The Mission. Produced in London with a script by that famous Robert Bolt, Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons bring us to 18th century South America. Here a Jesuit priest enters the jungle and begins to build a mission town for the native people. At issue is the missionary effort to Christianize the indigenous people without bringing the European, especially Spanish, culture with the religion. The film has an historical background that started in 1610 when two Jesuits came to a remote area in Brazil. Other missions followed this example, and all of these came to be known historically as the Jesuit Reductions in South America. These missions endeavored to sustain themselves economically while teaching the aboriginals a Christian faith and general learning.
Of interest to us are the half-dozen Reductions that were established in Argentina. The largest of these missions bears the name of San Ignacio Mini which today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Native Sand Stone vestiges mark the areas of these towns. As history evolved, and for various events that occurred on the world stage, the Jesuits were forced to leave these efforts that eventually the jungle reclaimed.
As a religious young man knowing something of the history of his native Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio would surely have been aware of these missions that attract tourists in good number. As a Jesuit, and surely as Fr. Provincial, Fr. Bergoglio would have visited these historical sites and would have been impressed by the Jesuit missionaries from Spain who came to these jungle spots to learn the Guarani language and to educate these people beginning with the youngest and advancing as the locals reached up in years.
The film closes with an actor musing that the world has forced killing the Indians and shutting down these missions. In response, the actor Cardinal Altamirano replies saying that the first actor is wrong, that it is not the world by itself that has ended the missions. Rather, says the Cardinal, “thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it.”
We are all moved in these early days by the initial impression of Pope Francis. He comes not from Europe, but from the Americas, from Argentina. We pray for our new Pope, recognizing that the Lord has selected him as successor to Saint Peter. We pray that the Lord grant him a spirit of counsel and fortitude, a spirit of knowledge and of piety. Amen!