You may have seen the recent report describing how Pope Francis made a telephone call to a kiosk in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to cancel his daily newspaper delivery service. The call was made a week after the former cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected as our new pope. The person who answered the telephone, Daniel Del Regno, is the son of the owner of the kiosk. When he answered the phone, Del Regno heard a familiar voice say, “Hi Daniel, it’s Cardinal Jorge.”
Del Regno immediately assumed it was a friend of his who was imitating the former archbishop of Buenos Aires. The newly elected pope reassured him by saying, “Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio. I’m calling you from Rome.”
Pope Francis proceeded to thank Del Regno for delivering the paper and extended best wishes to his family. In an interview, Del Regno said that when Cardinal Bergoglio left for Rome, Del Regno asked him if he thought he would be elected pope. The cardinal responded, “That’s too hot to touch. See you in 20 days. Keep delivering the paper.”
Prior to ending the call, Del Regno asked the pope if he would ever return to Buenos Aires. Pope Francis told him that for the time being it would be difficult to return home but that he would remember the people of Buenos Aires in his prayers. The pope then asked Del Regno to pray for him.
During an interview, Del Regno’s father, Luis Del Regno, said that they were paid to deliver the morning newspaper to the former cardinal’s residence every day but that every Sunday the cardinal “would come by the kiosk at 5:30 a.m. and buy the La Nacion [newspaper]. He would chat with us for a few minutes and then take the bus to Lugano, where he would serve mate [tea] to young people and the sick.”
The newspapers delivered to Cardinal Bergoglio were always folded and secured with a rubber band. The elder Del Regno said that at the end of every month, the cardinal always returned the 30 rubber bands he had saved from the previous month’s newspapers.
Del Regno also commented, “In June he baptized my grandson. It was an amazing feeling. I know what he’s like. He’s one of a kind.”
One of a kind is an understatement.
How many bishops or cardinals have you heard about who get up at 5:30 a.m. on Sundays so they can ride a bus to a run-down area of town where they serve tea to sick people? When’s the last time you heard about a bishop or cardinal who hates waste so much he saves and returns rubber bands to a local business so they can be reused?
It’s refreshing to know that the Vicar of Christ has, for years, been doing the exact same things that Christ did while He was on this Earth. We’re in for some big surprises with this new pope. Like Christ, he’s going to completely throw off the news reporters and the pride-filled leaders who think they know everything.
After reading the article about the pope making the telephone call to his friends back home, I started thinking about the attributes a priest must develop and possess before he can be truly Christ-like. Here are the seven attributes I came up with:
1. Humility – True holiness is impossible without humility. Our Lord said: “Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you and learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Before anyone can be like Christ, he or she must first embrace and practice humility. In her book The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa of Avila wrote that it is only through the doorway of humility that a person can reach perfection.
2. Prayerfulness and 3. Fasting – During His public ministry when He wasn’t teaching, Christ was praying and/or fasting. If we were allowed to catch a glimpse of what He did prior to beginning His public ministry at the age of 30, I believe we would find that most of the time He was engaged in one or more of the following three activities: work, prayer, and fasting. A truly Christ-like priest imitates our Lord in all things, especially in the way that He prayed and fasted.
4. Marian Devotion – Priests who are truly holy recognize and embrace Mary as their spiritual mother and pray her rosary every day, with the hope that she will mold them into the image and likeness of her Son. They understand that when they take up their daily cross, she will meet them along the way to encourage and pray for them, just as she did when she met her Son on His way to Calvary.
5. Wisdom – A Christ-like priest possesses not only keen discernment and a capacity for sound judgment but also a deep understanding of God and the human condition. He is capable of seeing through people, and helping them recognize and conquer their faults.
6. Empathy – A person who is empathetic has the ability to develop a deep understanding of what another person is going through by mentally putting himself (or herself) in the place of that person. Christ had the ability to empathize with everyone He met. A truly holy priest possesses that same ability.
7. Enthusiasm – The great essayist, philosopher, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) said, “Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your mind. Put your whole soul to it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” A Christ-like priest pursues his priestly duties with great energy and enthusiasm.
Now more than ever, we need priests who possess all seven of these Christ-like attributes. Our Risen Lord expects us to pray for our priests so they will be given the grace to develop all seven of these attributes. A worthy Easter resolution would be to commit to our Lord that you will select a priest that you will pray for every day.