March 25, 2013

Pope Francis is "a Jesuit's Jesuit" who understands the importance of St. Francis of Assisi in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, said the Jesuits' secretary for the promotion of the faith.

Jesuit Father Gerald Blaszczak told Catholic News Service that while most Jesuits were shocked that a Jesuit was elected pope, "any Jesuit worth his salt" would not be surprised that the pope took the name of St. Francis of Assisi.

Blaszczak said Pope Francis' training and priesthood as a Jesuit "tell you that he's been steeped in Ignatian spirituality" and has had "a top-notch secular education."

As well, "his formation has always put him in touch with real people in real-life situations," which he then has reflected upon in an effort to identify the ways God was present, said the American Jesuit.


That he chose the name Francis shows what he thinks it will take to reform the Church.

"It's not going to require moral muscle, it's not going to require just philosophical analysis; it's going to require an engagement with the person of Christ," particularly through the Scriptures," he said.

"But it's going to be the Christ poor and humble."

Blaszczak said Jesuits know just how important the life of St. Francis of Assisi was in the conversion of their founder, St. Ignatius, and in the development of what has come to be known as Ignatian spirituality.


St. Ignatius, who lived 1491-1556, was from a Spanish noble family. After being wounded in battle, he began reviewing his life. Blaszczak said he saw his future either as a career in the royal court or a life spent imitating St. Francis of Assisi.

"For Ignatius, Francis is the alternative to the life of the world," the Jesuit said.

"Ignatius, as he admits himself, was given to womanizing, gambling and feats of arms."

However, at the time of his conversion, "to his great surprise," Ignatius finds himself "much more attracted, much more consoled, enlivened and given joy when he thinks about imitating the life of St. Francis."


Blaszczak said he expected Pope Francis to continue as much as possible to live with "simplicity and austerity in conformity with the life of Ignatius and Francis, in conformity with his intention to follow Christ poor and humble."

The modern papacy, however, has included a certain style dictated by protocol and respect for the pope.

Blaszczak said he did not think that would frustrate Pope Francis.

"This is a man who is not afraid of choosing and marking his own direction," he said.