"Imagine for a moment what a sign to the Church and to the world, if after those auspicious words are heard ringing out from the balcony of St. Peter's, 'Habemus papam!', 'We have a Pope!'; imagine, as the world waits to see who was elected that, not a man clad uncomfortably in a while outfit that only somewhat fits steps out, but instead a man wearing his simple, worn Franciscan habit stood there instead. Can you imagine what an image and message that would be? Sometimes it is the simplest actions that can change everything. A an unexpected Pope who says, 'Let's call a Council to bring the Fresh Air of the Holy Spirit into the Church.' A Pope who shocks the world by saying, 'I'm 86 years old. I have done what was mine to do. The Church belongs to Christ. It is time for me to resign.' These seemingly simple actions are like a stone dropped on the calm surface of a pond that leave thousands of ripples in their wake. What ripples would be made by a Pope in brown? Not in white. Not wearing Prada. Not draped in gold vestments. Instead in a simple brown habit and sandals and echoing the words of the founder of his Order saying, 'My brothers and sisters, let us begin again.'"
"Imagine the new sense of humility and service that could emanate from a Church whose leader decided to put aside the trappings of royalty and embrace the clothing of a simple, Franciscan friar - as he has done his whole life - and lead from there. Imagine a Pope who smiles and tells jokes and is in his heart a pastor of souls. Imagine what a Pope in brown could do?"Now, a year later, the Conclave of course didn't choose Cardinal Sean as Pope, but they certainly did choose someone who embodied all that I hoped for. They certainly did choose a man whose heart is the heart of the Holy Man of Assisi himself. A Pope in a brown habit would have been a wonderful external, but even more we have gotten a Pope who is in his heart-of-hearts connected with the spirit of St. Francis in such a profound way that we are lucky enough to be living in a new Franciscan age; one that invites us into the same profound conversion of life and heart that Il Poverello invited believers into more than eight centuries ago.
A year ago, my heart was full of hope and expectation at what might be. Today, my heart is full of joy and appreciation for the year that has been and looking forward with excitement to where God may take us together with Him in the days ahead. Being believers and followers of Christ is exciting and dangerous and wondrous and more amazing than anyone could ever imagine.
Let us pray for Pope Francis and his leadership of our Church and let us ask God to give each of us the same courage, trust and faith to follow the Gospel wherever it may lead.