Advice for Pope Francis from St. Francis

A conversation between a saint and a pope named Francis on the saint’s feast day (October 4).

Pope Francis kisses a hand-carved figure of St. Francis given to him at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis kisses a hand-carved figure of St. Francis given to him at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
St. Francis: Your Holiness, it’s so nice to see you!

Pope Francis: We can cut the formalities. After all, I took your name!

St. Francis: True, Jorge, true. I was honored but then I got jealous thinking you’ll be the more famous Francis.

Pope Francis: Ignatius of Loyola must be giving you a lot of grief!

St. Francis: Nope, but he lost a bundle! He bet that you were going to take his name after you were announced. I gave him 3-1 odds that it wouldn’t be “Ignatius.”

Pope Francis: Ouch! He’s gonna give me a lot of heartache for that one. Since I’m a Jesuit and all.

St. Francis: The fact is that you’re giving him a lot of good press. And you’re doing a swell job!

Pope Francis: Thanks, thanks. It’s not easy. Do you have any advice?

St. Francis: Well, I appreciate you highlighting my teachings about the poor. Lately I’ve been known as “that guy with all the animals.”

Pope Francis: Yeah, Pope Benedict thinks I should get a cat, but I’m more of a dog person. The advice, dear saint?

St. Francis: Oh yes, the poor! Do you think we can get people to care more about them?

Pope Francis: That’s gonna be tough! People are really selfish sometimes. But they are also so good, as well! We live in a world where money is an idol and people on the margins are cast aside. I believe people really want to do good things, but they need to be reminded and encouraged. There can be so many distractions from caring for others, but our focus must remain there! How can I help awaken people to love one another just a bit more. To help them understand that their hearts can stretch much farther than they think they can?

St. Francis: For starters — Muslims go to Mecca on Pilgrimages. Mormons go on missions. Why not have Catholics do something like that? Ask them to dedicate time to an experience with the poor.

Pope Francis: Excellent idea! Catholics should make a pilgrimage with the poor because once you see poverty firsthand, its more difficult to deny that people are in great need. I think it’s amazing that the poor know this and try to take care of each other, but that it takes a lot for more privileged people to understand.

St. Francis: You’ve set a wonderful example for this with your trips to a favela in Brazil and the poor region of Sardinia. I hope that people see your visits as a witness to how they can reach out to the poor in their own communities and around the world.

Pope Francis: I will have to take more of these trips, maybe lead service projects, and encourage the young — and the old — to give some time in their lives to helping the poor. What else dear saint?

St. Francis: Women need to be recognized in the Church more. Mother Teresa got to heaven much faster than most popes. Women have established schools, served the poor, showed many how to love — not to mention raising children! St. Clare of Assisi was just as important as I was.

Pope Francis: But John Paul said I can’t ordain them.

St. Francis: Who said anything about ordaining anyone? I said recognize them. You don’t have to be a priest to be a saint. I was a deacon, but not a priest. And I became a saint. People need to inspire one another. Countless women have inspired many and we have to tell their stories.

Pope Francis: Recognize holy women. Gotcha.

St. Francis: And nice job on saying the essence of faith is God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Pope Francis: Thanks! How can I teach people to show God’s mercy to others?

St. Francis: Forgive people and get others to forgive people. And do it publicly.

Pope Francis: A worldwide day of forgiveness?

St. Francis: Needs work, but that’s the right idea. Talk about how confession is celebrating God’s forgiveness and we need to express that kind of forgiveness in our own lives. Call on people to forgive someone who they resent.

Pope Francis: I’m on it. There are a lot of people I resent sometimes. I’ll make a list. Some last thoughts?

St. Francis: Sell some buildings. Sell some art. And donate the money to people who do good work and work with them to bring about change.

Pope Francis: So many causes. How do I pick the right one?

St. Francis: Let people pick what’s in their heart.

Pope Francis: Am I going to be a saint?

St. Francis: Only if you are St. Jorge. There isn’t enough room in heaven for two Saint Francises.

Pope Francis: Xavier?

St. Francis: Oh yeah, him. Look, all you have to do to become a saint is to be all that you are.

Pope Francis: (Smiles) Merton!

St. Francis: Yep! He’s so much fun.

Pope Francis: If only we can do that … the world will be a better place.

St. Francis: Nope, if only everyone could do that — we’d care for one another, we’d eliminate poverty, we’d stop wars, we’d cure diseases without a preoccupation for the bottom line. That’s not just a better place …

Pope Francis: It’s the Kingdom of God.