The White, The Black, and the Brown: Reflections on Francis 23

As they say, "Good things always come in threes"

As they say, “Good things always come in threes”

Black smoke, white smoke, no more smoke today — Thanks be to God! — but the excitement isn’t over yet. We are still excited about getting to know our new Pope.

Yesterday was full of surprises for everybody. Most of us were not expecting the Pope to be elected so quickly. When the new Pope was announced, all the people around me were asking “Who?” And the name Francis caught many people by surprise. 

Then came the moment when he stepped out on the balcony dressed in white to meet the world for the first time. My immediate impression was Pius XII, because he looked so stately and impressive (just not quite as tall as Pius XII). I said to myself, “Now that’s a Pope.” He looks good in white.

It did not take long for the term “Black Pope” to start circulating. This misnomer stems from the fact that the Pope is a Jesuit and the General Superior of the Society of Jesus has long been called “The Black Pope” in the city of Rome. But Francis I is not the General Superior of the Jesuits. He’s the Pope. And he wears white.

In fact, the name “Brown Pope” seems more fitting, if you think about it. It has been confirmed that he chose the name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi, not Francis Xavier or Francis Borgia (both Jesuits). Although either of those two other saints would have been very fitting, for today the name St. Francis of Assisi is inspired. Everyone loves the gentle saint.

Credit to Terry at 8 Kids and a business for this photo. Thanks!

Credit to Terry at 8 Kids and a business for this photo. Thanks!

And that’s what I see in our new Pope. A true man of poverty, poor in spirit, and humble servant of the poor and sick. A channel of peace that the world needs today. A man with a mandate from God — “Rebuild my Church!”

Let me elaborate on that last thought for a moment. Since Benedict’s announcement of his resignation there has been a lot of media speculation that the Church is in turmoil, that it needs an overhaul, and that the college of cardinals has been fraught with infighting and political factions over which direction the Church should take (obviously evidenced by the consensus they achieved during one of the shortest conclaves in history). There may be some truth to these claims, though I think overhaul is a vast overstatement.

The Church does not need to be rebuilt. But we do need a pope who will reestablish the Church’s integrity in the eyes of the world today. Pope Benedict saw (still sees) this clearly, but he also determined, with all humility, that the Holy Spirit has someone else in mind for this task. To me, the name of Francis speaks to this need.

The most powerful moment of yesterday’s Urbi et Orbi blessing was the moment when the crowd began to chant the pope’s name: “FRAN-CES-CO! FRAN-CES-CO! FRAN-CES-CO!!!” That’s the moment when I said, “Yes! We have a new Pope. And the people love him.”

Thank you God! Viva il Papa! Long live Francis I!


  1. Pingback: The White, The Black, and the Brown: Reflections on Francis - CATHOLIC FEAST - Sync your Soul

  2. Hi James! I was there in the crowd last night (getting to St. Peter’s from the CES was an adventure whose telling wouldn’t fit in a combox) and believe me, it was really a blessing to be there. You’re right, he does look good in white… what really impressed me as well were his warmth and closeness (nice Latin American touch!) and the natural and simple way he invited us all to prayer (twice) during his first words as Pope: here’s a man who knows to put God first. The exciting thing now will be to see what the Holy Spirit has planned for the Church during this pontificate. I hope to be able to go to his inaugural Mass on Tuesday!
    Count on my prayers and God bless. In Christ, Br Andrew LC

    • You’re blessed, Br Andrew, to be in Rome at this time. I certainly wished I could have been there — almost felt like I was there at one point, just wishing I was there. I’m very envious and happy for those of you who had that grace.

      This is a beautiful moment for the Church. Like you I’m looking forward to what the Holy Spirit has in store for us. God bless you and count on my prayers as you continue your journey toward the priesthood. (Study hard!)

    • Very true. I was just reflecting on the beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit and blessed are the peacemakers surely come to mind, but so do all of them. Blessed are the merciful speaks to my heart right now. Our world needs to know Mercy.

  3. For some reason when I saw Pope Francis for the first time he reminded me of at least one past Pontiff. He does look good in white. Plus I could tell from his speech/prayer that he is a humble man who loves the people. From what I’ve heard he’s battled the government in Argentina. He’s a fighter who stand up for Truth. I think he is the right man at the right time. I do believe the Holy Spirit was most certainly at work during this election.

    • Definitely something to chew on. The Church doesn’t really do such a bad job of keeping up with the challenges of the time, if you look at it closely.

  4. “…though I think overhaul is a vast overstatement.”

    1000% true, James. If I hear the phrase “the church in turmoil” again this week, I’ll yack.
    The media is vested in seeing the Church fail, but they’ll be very disappointed.

    Blessings to our Pope Francis I…!!!

    • Okay, I won’t say Church in t*****. And if the media would pay more attention to the vigor of the faithful that was displayed so vibrantly last night, they would not be saying it so much either. World Youth Days, March for Life, I could go on…. The Church is strong and alive. And the gates of hell won’t hold out against it.

  5. What struck me the most was when he asked the faithful to pray for him and then he bowed. Wow! No thanks or credit needed for the picture, James. It’s a magnificent photo that speaks volumes, especially with Holy Week and Good Thursday coming soon.

    • That struck me too. He is obviously a man of deep humility. I enjoyed learning so many other things about him today. This is going to be a wonderful papacy (par for the course, Holy Spirit).

      That pictures says so much and I had to share it. Thanks for posting it.

    • This will be great for the Jesuits. I know a good many faithful, holy Jesuit priests. The SJ has had its unfavorable moments in recent history, but let’s not forget all its history, what it has done for spreading the faith world wide and for Catholic education. It really is an excellent order or an order of excellence. This Pope bears the hallmark of the Ignatian charism: humble, service, solid intellectual formation, and above all, love for Christ and his Church — and let’s also add loyalty to the Pope 😉

Leave a Reply to Biltrix Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s