Much has been made of the impressions Pope Francis has created by his ordinary, every day activities: catching buses, using a telephone to make his own calls, not dressing in all the fine drapery usually worn by popes, treating people respectfully as he did the journalists, celebrating the Holy Thursday Mass in a Roman prison, writes Fr Michael Kelly in Ucanews.
He is on record as being open to consider ending the celibacy rule for Roman Catholic clerics, caring about the pastoral care of divorced and remarried Catholics and reflecting the approach of Vatican II in decentralising Church governance to allow local bishops’ conferences more initiative.
There seems little doubt that change is underway and the one thing we all know about change is that it has uncertain outcomes.
We are at a turning point in the Church and it will reward inspection of the key formative experiences in Pope Francis’ life to see where and how things might go in coming years.
The man clearly brings a great deal of pastoral and administrative experience as a Church leader. But about him personally there is something else.
As Jorge Bergoglio, the current pope’s first and then recurrent experience of ministry as a Jesuit was his making and directing the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Twice at least he has made the 30-day retreat, and he has also guided others over many years through that experience.
The Exercises are at once a school of prayer and an experience with one purpose – making decisions about directions in life. Over four "weeks" of varying lengths, the retreatant prays for the freedom to make good decisions.
They are prayerful days when a retreatant contemplates her or his human condition as a sinner in need of God’s mercy, a companion with Jesus in his preaching and healing ministry, as one beholding the sorrowful and painful death of Jesus and then asking to share the new life of Jesus’ resurrection.
What impact does making a 30-day retreat have in shaping a person? As one who’s done two and has planned a third one for later this year, there is one uncompromising fact that has to be taken into account: God can only work with us as we are and sometimes God hasn’t got much to work with!
There is no big tally card in the sky that measures and rewards achievement of standards expected of someone making the retreat. The believer comes as he or she is, that mixture of virtue and vice, insight and stubborn blindness, intelligence and stupidity, generosity and mean spiritedness.
So there is no "standard product" at the end of the Exercises. However there are at least three things that not even the most narrow, hard-hearted and obtuse person can miss as the process of the weeks unfold.
FULL STORY What makes Pope Francis 'tick' spiritually? (Ucanews)