The Catholic University of America

March 20, 2013

Q-and-A with Father Jude
Franciscan Spirituality and Pope Francis

  Fr. Jude
 

Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv.

On March 13, the world watched as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was announced as the successor of Peter and assumed for the first time his new name, inspired by the 12th-century Italian saint Francis of Assisi. St. Francis’ religious order, the Franciscans, are men known as friars who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and seek to emulate his life.

University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., shares his reflections on the Franciscan spirituality, how it shapes the University’s Campus Ministry, and how it might play a role in the papacy of Pope Francis.

As a Franciscan friar, what does the Franciscan spirituality mean for you?

It’s trying to put together the Franciscan ideals of a respect for nature, for all of creation, and the respect for human life and how each individual man, woman, and child has dignity before God. Particularly in our Franciscan life we try to say to the world, ‘You don’t need a lot of things.’ If you have too many things, they come between you and a deeper relationship with Christ and your sisters and brothers. As Conventual Franciscans, which is one branch of Franciscan life, our charism is that we live in a community of brothers. We pray together, we eat together, and that impacts our ministry. There is an emphasis on the poor, but not in some kind of condescending manner, such as, ‘Look at all the good we’re doing for you,’ but in a way that says ‘You’re my sister, you’re my brother.’

When our students do homeless food runs, we emphasize that it’s not a matter of simply handing out food. It’s a matter of knowing our friends who are homeless by name, by engaging in conversation with them, by acknowledging their dignity. It’s the same thing we encourage our students to do when they go to S.O.M.E. [So Others Might Eat] or help at D.C. Reads or whatever ministry they’re involved in; it’s about building those relationships. And that’s really what Francis was about, building relationship not only with his brothers in community but with all peoples and the whole of creation as brother and sister.

What are some of the other ways Franciscan spirituality affects CUA's Campus Ministry?

We try to be responsible stewards of the resources that the University provides for us. We make a concerted effort to welcome students and to let them know that Campus Ministry is for everybody, that everybody is welcome. That’s what Francis was all about and that’s what we try to be all about as well.

Community service is something I hope you find at every Catholic university. Many public universities also have volunteer organizations. The Franciscan element adds that building of relationship. That’s what we take from Francis. Everybody who met Francis, we believe through the stories, had a personal encounter with him that ultimately helped to shape their lives for the better, whether that was a deepening of their faith or the acknowledgement of their own holiness.

The University’s Lenten theme centers on the “Lord Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace” prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Why was this theme chosen for the Lenten season?

Each week of Lent we remember a group of people who have been victimized by violence or discrimination in our culture and in our nation. We wanted to raise that example of what the Gospel response should be to violence in our age, coupled with who we are called to be as instruments of peace, of love, all the things that are mentioned in that traditional prayer of St. Francis. We just felt that it brought everything together.

How do you think Pope Francis' name choice will define his papacy?

I think that what we’re seeing with Pope Francis are a couple of things. He’s a Jesuit and the Jesuits, especially in Central and South America, have led the way in terms of having a preferential option for the poor, which is what Pope Paul VI called men and women to. So that in situations where we do encounter the poor, their needs, their hopes, their dreams are so important and should really define how the Catholic community operates in the world.

Pope Francis’ ministry when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires really expressed that. He didn’t live in the cardinal’s palace. He didn’t have his own chauffeur and car. He took public transportation in Argentina and he lived in a very modest apartment, cooked for himself, all of the things that every other person does. I think for the cardinals to choose that candidate says this is where the Church needs to identify the next big role of evangelization is so inspired by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit guided the men of the conclave to choose a man who was humble, prayerful, holy, poor, and very pastoral.

When asked about his name, he said we need a better relationship with creation, that it isn’t the best right now. But [the name also implies] that identification with the poor. The value of living a poorer life. As Franciscans what we have reflected on all these centuries is that you choose poverty in order to engage the richness of God’s love. Franciscan theology is one in which we identify with the poor Christ and through that identification we serve our sisters and brothers.

 

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