We are happy to offer the following memories and reflections from Father Facundo Mela, FDP. Father Facundo has worked with the poor and disabled in Argentina and the Philippines.
On 13th March, I received a text message informing me that white smoke was coming from the Sistine Chapel. I immediately ran in front of our television to learn who would be the new Pope. When, Cardinal Jean Lous Tauran solemnly announced the new Pope’s name, I could not understand him; my Latin is not so good. Then, helped by the television headlines I knew that Cardinal Bergoglio was Pope Francis. At that very moment, I was overwhelmed with emotion and happiness, thousands of remembrances came to my mind: my priestly ordination, his lifestyle and his shepherd’s heart.
More than a year before my priestly ordination, I met him by accident, or better by Divine Providence. I took advantage of the situation and requested he ordain me as a priest. He looked at me and replied: “Yes I will, son, but call me as soon as possible to schedule it, ok?”
Some months later, I called the archbishop’s office for my ordination and instead of talking to his secretary, the operator connected me with him and we schedule my ordination. Before the mass, we had a very meaningful meeting at the parish house. He met my father and my superiors, talking to us like friends, like a simple priest.
Until now, his words resound in my heart: “As the author of the letter to the Hebrews describes Christ: compassionate and faithful, you have to be so, be a compassionate and faithful priest”. He looked at me and repeats these two words: compassionate and faithful which have helped and come with me during my ministry, especially in doubtful and dark moments.
Many people were amazed, when the newly Pope Francis asked people to pray upon him, he bowed down to the people of God for their prayer, a new and unprecedented gesture; a bishop asking the prayer of his people. But it was not the first time he did it, he always does it. At the end of my ordination, he requested my blessing. Can you imagine a newly ordained priest blessing the Cardinal? At that moment, I got very nervous and had trouble remembering the blessing form.
After his election the world’s eyes have looked at him and his style: simple, approachable, smiling, without pomp, close to the poor. Last week, a lot of friends around the world shared with me their surprise and amazement: he is amazing, his homilies are simple and deep, he speaks like a shepherd, etc, etc. His words, style and simplicity are making many people approach to the Church and feel that She is their home again.
His shepherd’s heart pushes him to go to the people, to spend Christmas and Easter in prisons, hospitals and squatter areas. As he said to the Argentinean bishop’s conference some years ago: “We have to be shepherds who smell sheep, we have to be with our flock, we have to have its smell, because we are near, close to them…” This was his homily and his lifestyle.
These days, newspapers and TV broadcasts over the world have been speaking about him and his simple and poor style, which made them remain speechless, but here is my question, why are we amazed that a bishop wants to ride a bus or goes to squatters? What happened to us? Have we become used to excessive ways? Have we become used golden crosses instead of simple ones? Have we been focused on liturgical garment and not on the gospel?
Sometimes, we, Christians put our attention on anti-evangelical things: forgetting the poor, wasting food, fighting for stupid things, thinking about irrelevant issues, living as the godless, scandalizing the world, etc. But, God forgives us and gives a gift: a new shepherd. So, I firmly believe that Pope Francis’ example is a God’s invitation to return to simplicity of life, to go out to the people, to be close to the poor and the outcast, to avoid luxury and waste, to put Christ at the centre of our lives again.
So, let’s thank God for our Pope, let’s pray for him and accept his invitation “to walk, to build, to witness, always with the cross of Christ”.