Our good new Pope inspires both joyful and anxious hope in reform minded Catholics. The joy comes from his commitment to the poor and social justice. His proven humility and holiness of life are displayed in his choice to honor St. Francis of Assisi in choosing his name. St. Francis rebuilt a crumbling church and inspired great reforms but can our Francis do the same against formidable odds?
On a lighter more trivial note I’m hoping that our new Pope is taking a long shrewd look around his quarters at Casa Martha, where the Cardinals are staying. Once when attending a Vatican conference on women’s health I had the privilege of being put up there with other American lay women. It struck me as a coldly formal environment both expensively marbled and sterile. It matched the grim Swiss guards outside in its lack of warmth and welcome.
Another disturbing fact to this American feminist’s sensibilities was that all the male clerics ate and took their ease in the dining and living rooms while a bevy of little nuns cooked, served, cleaned and did the laundry in the basement. That the rooms lacked hair dryers was understandable.
We had irreverent fun joking that one of us was sleeping in the next Pope’s guest bed. Less laughable was the discovery that on the enormous desk in my large bare living room there was a blotter with a huge map imprinted on it. The map showed only Europe! Only males and only Europe count? Well that certainly is going to change. What else may be different, and how soon?