05 November 2015

Why does Pope Francis so frequently ask for our prayers?

The Holy Father Pope Francis has endeared himself to countless people in part through two phrases says with great regularity.

The second of these phrases - both in terms of importance and in terms of chronology - is the manner in which he has concluded (so far as I can tell) everyone of his Angelus Addresses: Buon pranzo!

This Italian phrase literally means "good lunch" and doesn't translate directly into English, but it has the meaning of "Have a good lunch." (In Italian, you can preface almost anything with buon, such as buon studio [good study] or buon lavoro [good work] or buon vacanza [good vacation]. Here again the exact meaning doesn't translate smoothly into English, but you get the idea.)

The first of these phrases - both in terms of importance and in terms of chronology - he first spoke the night of his election to the See of Peter. Standing in the central balcony of the loggia of the Basilica of St. Peter, Pope Francis addressed the Christian faithful throughout the world when he said, "I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me." This request he makes with great frequency when he asks of both individuals and groups, "Please, pray for me." Why does he so often request the prayers of the faithful for himself and for his ministry? There are, of course, any number of reasons for such a plea, but one them might well be that he knows something of history.

Earlier today I picked up a copy of Mark Riebling's Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler (New York: Basic Books, 2015). I have already read 20% of the book and have no desire to put it down anytime soon. If I do not manage to finish it tonight, I will certainly do so tomorrow.

In Church of Spies, we are given a summary of the persecutions of the Roman Pontiffs through the course of the centuries:
The martyrdom of Pope Saint Clement I
The first popes were martyred to a man: the emperors sent some of them to Sardinia, where each had the nerve at the back of his right knee severed, his right eye gouged out and cauterized with molten iron; the, if under thirty, he endured castration. In the ensuing centuries, scarcely a year had passed when the Church was not at war with the world. One hundred seventy times usurpers drove a pontiff from the city, and thirty-three times killed him on Peter's Chair. The ninth and tenth centuries alone saw John the Twelfth decapitated, John the Fourteenth starved, Adrian the Third poisoned, Benedict the Sixth asphyxiated, Stephen the Eighth dismembered, Leo the Fifth bludgeoned, Stephen the Sixth strangled, Stephen the Seventh garroted [I had to look that one up], John the Eighth clubbed to death, John the Tenth suffocated under a pillow, and Boniface the Seventh beaten unconscious, left under a statue of Marcus Aurelius, and stabbed to death by passersby (41-42).
In this recounting of the sufferings of the Popes we can see both that things might not be as bad as they might seem today and that we should always remember to pray for the Holy Father because things could be worse.

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