It’s spring! It may not feel like it with about a foot of snow outside, but with my red hibiscus in full bloom today, there’s reason to believe the season is moving ahead to be in sync with the Eastertide.
Spring in my book started earlier when on March 13, 2013, when Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J. became the 266th leader of 1.2 billion Catholics all over the world, choosing the name Francis.
In his homily at the mass inaugurating the Petrine Ministry on March 19, 2013, His Holiness Pope Francis stressed on the need to protect creation and humanity, echoing his consistent voice for social and economic justice, as well as the environmental message that his namesake is popularly associated with. Thus, Pope Francis said:
“The vocation of being a ‘protector’, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”
How does one become a protector? Pope Francis suggested starting with oneself, especially emotional fortitude, even as he reminded everyone the virtue of tenderness as a sign of strength.
“But to be ‘protectors’, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy, and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up or tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!”
“Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness; it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”