What's in a Pope's Name?

St. Francis of a Assisi - a 12th century bad boy turned good, dedicating his life to the poor. Photo by R-M Arca. Several of my students have come in this week, all abuzz about His Holiness, Pope Francis I. Most of them attend separate school, so they have been following the Conclave in religion class. They've been fixated on everything from how he had part of his lung removed as a teenager to how he prefers to take public transit and from how he preferred to live in a simple apartment to how quickly he was chosen to be pope.

Two students stumped me when they asked, "Why would a Pope resign? Aren't you supposed to be a pope until you die?" The two sisters followed this up by, "Can a pope get kicked out?" Oh dear, it would have been nice to have one of our priests here to field those questions. I quickly told them that these are questions to ask a priest and tried to steer the conversation back towards music.

I told some of them how St. Francis would have freaked out over the massive basilica built in his name in Assisi. As beautiful as it is, and as beautiful as it was for me to attend Mass there, I think St. Francis would have wanted the money used to build the basilica to help the poor.

They, and I are very happy about the Pope's papal name: Francis. St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals and children, so he's pretty popular in my studio.

We talked about what the Pope might be trying to convey with his choice of name. It came down to what St. Francis is known for: simplicity, humility and service to the poor. That resonates strongly with them - and with me as well.

He's got a tough job ahead of him. We can hope and pray that he'll have the help he needs to rebuild and reorganize the Church. However, with just his choice of name and his demeanor, he has instilled hope - and excitement - in my students and I. He seems like one of us - an ordinary person trying to get by in the world by the grace of God. Someone who wants to help us and work with us. Someone we'd like to invite over for tea and cookies.

I leave you with a song that I sung at many a school Mass when I lived down east. It's a favourite with my students as well and since the news broke out, this song has been playing in my head all day: