St. Francis

The Movement to Keep Families Together

Francisco Córdoba and his family.

On Sept. 25 Francisco Córdoba entered into Sanctuary at St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church in Tucson, Ariz., after the threat of deportation had been looming over his family's life for eight long months.

It has been an honor for those of us here at St. Francis to receive the blessing of Francisco and his family and to offer them a place where they can begin to see a solution to our broken immigration system. It was even more important that we receive the amazing blessing that they bring to us.

Remembering Francis: From 12th Century Rebel to 21st Century Pope

St. Francis statue, PerseoMedusa / Shutterstock.com

St. Francis statue, PerseoMedusa / Shutterstock.com

Today, Oct. 4, Christians around the world remember one of the great heroes of our faith, and the current pope’s namesake – Francis of Assisi. But Francesco Bernadone (Francis of Assisi), who died on Oct. 3, 1226, must be laughing at the irony of it all.

He was one of the first critics of capitalism, one of the earliest Christian environmentalists, a sassy reformer of the church, and one of the classic conscientious objectors to war. Even though it’s hard to imagine a saint whose life is more relevant to the world we live in today, Francis was not always so popular.

Legend has it, the first time he preached at the Vatican, the pope told him to go preach to the pigs. But later the pope had a vision: the corner of the church was collapsing, and little Francis and the youth of Assisi were holding it up. Arguably that youth movement was one of the most powerful restorations of church history. While he did not hold back on his relentless critique of the church, he remained humble and hopeful. He stopped complaining about the church as it was and started dreaming of the church as it could be. As Francis said, he heard God whisper: “Repair my Church, which is in ruins.” 

So perhaps it’s providential that 800 years later the pope is named after him.

New and Noteworthy

Live Simply by Franciscan Media / Who is Dayani Crystal? by Pulse Films / Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valers / Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk by Heather Kopp

Elaina Ramsey is Women and Girls Campaign Associate at Sojourners.

New & Noteworthy

A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher by Sue Halpern / Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration by Kristin E. Heyer / Skipping Stones / In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan: A Model for Peacemaking

Photo: Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Julie Polter is Senior Associate Editor at Sojourners.

Bergoglio: A Pope of Paradox for a Church in Transition

RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini.

Newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

VATICAN CITY — A hierarchy looking to make a clear statement about where the troubled church is headed chose on Wednesday the first member of the influential Jesuit order to be the next pope. Yet they also chose Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a humble man who lives simply and took the name Francis (also a first) that evokes the founder of another great religious order.

The College of Cardinals picked the first non-European in modern times, as well – yet he is the son of Italian immigrants and grew up in Argentina, perhaps the most European of any country in Latin America.

And the cardinals above all wanted a pastoral figure who would project an image of vigor and warmth to the world after the eight-year reign of Pope Benedict XVI — an introverted, gaffe-prone German theologian who was 78 when he was elected and retired last month at 85, saddled by the burdens of this very public office.

Yet in his stead they chose a soft-spoken a 76-year-old who has been rapped for rarely cracking a smile — an image that Bergoglio did little to dispel with his low-key introduction as Pope Francis to the expectant crowd in St. Peter’s Square on a rainy Roman evening.

“Buona sera,” Francis said in deliberate, word perfect Italian, with just a slight Spanish accent. “You all know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals have come almost to the ends of the earth to get him … but here we are.”

So what, in fact, does the election of Francis say about the Catholic Church at this point in its history?

Sipping Scotch in a Mansion and Eating Jesus Off the Floor in the Nation’s Capital

Washington National Cathedral, Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Washington National Cathedral, Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

On Sunday, we went to the Washington National Cathedral, a gigantic Episcopal church and self-professed “spiritual home for the nation.” This strikes me a bit funny, as a) Episcopalians make up fewer than half a percent of the nation, and b) America, regardless of religious affiliation, seems more interested in mammon than it does in spirit. 

But our friend has been attending the cathedral since she moved to D.C. a few months ago, and I worshipped in Episcopal churches for about seven years, not since 2007, and, frankly, I had missed how the traditional liturgy can transport me to a different place, psychologically speaking – a place where a man dying on a wooden cross 2,000 years really does seem to matter in a cosmic, world-changing kind of way. Plus, I wanted to see the neo-Gothic architecture in its transcendent beauty. This is the rub, right? Mammon makes beautiful things. What was difficult for me about the Episcopal church is the same thing that’s difficult about Washington, D.C.: It’s the wealth, it’s the power, it’s the privileged way of life that seems very distant from my beer-and-burgers existence, let alone from Jesus who had no place to lay his head.

'With a brush and an eye full of light': Patti Smith's Spiritual Exploration

Patti Smith. Photo by Angelo Cricchi via PattiSmith.net.

Patti Smith. Photo by Angelo Cricchi via PattiSmith.net.

"Oh Lord let me die on the back of adventure/ With a brush and an eye full of light."

These lines from the 10-minute "Constantine’s Dream" sum up Banga — the latest album from musical iconoclast Patti Smith — even as they aptly describe the career of CBGB's Queen of Punk.

For the better part of four decades, Smith has been all about adventure. The brush is a symbol of her broad artistic canvas (she sees herself more a poet than a musician, as well as an author and photographer), and she’s ever in pursuit of what the best rock music always is interested in – light, truth and better world.

Smith's “Oh Lord” at the start of that line is no accident, it would appear. This album particularly is full of God and religious images. The song "Constantine's Dream" finds Smith on pilgrimage to Assisi, following in the footsteps of St. Francis.

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