Pope Francis: The Psychology of a Name

Studies on the significance of names tell us that the name we are called by can has a powerful impact both on the way we see ourselves and the way others see us.  One of the reasons the Church encourages Catholic parents to choose a saint’s name for their children is that, as Christians, our identities ought to be completely devoted to the pursuit of heaven–the ultimate prize–from the first day of our birth.

There  is power in a name.  It announces us, and in many cases, it may come to define us.

The ever-entertaining and insightful, Rocco Palmo offers this brilliant off-the-cuff analysis of the significance of our new Holy Father’s name.

By choosing the name of the founder of his community’s traditional rivals (ed. note:  The Franciscans), the 266th Roman pontiff – the first from the American continent, home to more than half of the 1.2 billion-member church – has signaled three things: his desire to be a force of unity in a polarized fold, a heart for the poor, and his intent to “repair God’s house, which has fallen into ruin”… that is, to rebuild the church. 

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About Dr. Greg

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit www.CatholicCounselors.com.

  • David J. White

    Don’t forget that, for a Jesuit, “Francis” could also be a nod to St. Francis Xavier.

    • http://www.catholiccounselors.com Dr. Greg

      Quite right. While I think his reputation for humility favors Francis of Assisi, it would be foolish to ignore his Jesuit elder brother. I pray Pope Francis would be equal to both namesakes. From the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on St Francis Xavier…

      It is truly a matter of wonder that one man in the short space of ten years (6 May, 1542 – 2 December, 1552) could have visited so many countries, traversed so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, and converted so many infidels. The incomparable apostolic zeal which animated him, and the stupendous miracles which God wrought through him, explain this marvel, which has no equal elsewhere. The list of the principal miracles may be found in the Bull of canonization. St. Francis Xavier is considered the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles, and the zeal he displayed, the wonderful miracles he performed, and the great number of souls he brought to the light of true Faith, entitle him to this distinction. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622, although on account of the death of Gregory XV, the Bull of canonization was not published until the following year.

  • Timothy

    It has been officially cleared up by the Vatican’s deputy spokesman that it is Assisi, not Xavier, who is the Pope’s namesake. http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/13/world/pope-name/index.html?hpt=hp_t1