Following Papa Francisco’s Lead: 5 Easy Ways to Love the Poor in Honor of His Pontificate

I’ve spent the past few days falling in love with our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. As a saint fangirl, I joined many in those first few hours of speculation over “which Francis” our new Pope was honoring with his name selection. While we now know that he took his name for St. Francis of Assisi, I found his words on the topic today in this Rome Reports video to be magnetic:

The Pope then departed from his prepared speech to recount why he chose the name “Francis”. Some people, he said, still don’t understand whether he named himself after Francis Xavier or Francis De Sales or St Francis of Assisi. He described how, during the conclave, he was seated beside the Archbishop Emeritus of Sao Paolo and Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a close friend of his. “When the matter became dangerous” – said Pope Francis – “he comforted me”. And when the votes were being counted and it was clear the Pope had been elected, the Cardinals began to applaud and Cardinal Hummes “embraced me and kissed me and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor’…and that struck me…the poor…Immediately I thought of St Francis of Assisi…Francis was a man of peace, a man of poverty, a man who loved and protected creation.” That, said Pope Francis, is how the name came to mind. “How I would love a Church that is poor and for the poor” – he added.

We know that the Holy Father contacted officials in Buenos Aires the night of his election, taking a practical outlook on the matter of government and Church officials making an impromptu trip to Rome:

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope had called the Vatican ambassador in Buenos Aires on the night he was elected and told him of his wishes. The new pope had made a similar request to his fellow countrymen when he was made a cardinal in 2001 and Argentina was suffering from the effects of a financial crisis. “He called the ambassador and asked him to tell the bishops that there is no need for them and the faithful to make a long, expensive trip to come to see him but that they could instead offer the money to the poor instead,” Lombardi said. (Reuters, via Huffington Post)

Don’t forget about the poor…

As someone who’d strongly considered cashing in her frequent flyer miles to be at the Vatican for his installation, his words have challenged me personally. I think the perfect way to celebrate this moment, this man, and our Church is to look around ourselves this week and to align ourselves more fully to his mission of loving and serving the poor. I’ve been brainstorming a few ways the average Catholic family can embrace this spirit of generosity this week. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Make a donation in honor of Pope Francis to Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.
  2. Celebrate on Tuesday, the day of Pope Francis’ installation mass, by attending daily Mass and celebrating the Feast of St. Joseph at a parish in your community that serves underprivileged families. Fast during lunch or dinner and make a donation to that parish in Pope Francis’ name.
  3. Together with your children, clean out your family closets and make a donation of gently used clothing to the Catholic Charities organization in your hometown. Along with the clothing, take a few bags of non-perishable grocery staples.
  4. Find a Catholic school in your community and make a small donation to its scholarship fund for needy students.
  5. Look the face of poverty in your community squarely in the eye and pray about how you might be a part of finding a lasting solution to the plight of the poor. Don’t just intend to do it… actually do something. (Note: this is me, talking to myself)

Update: Thanks to my Twitter friends, especially Barb, we’ve decided to celebrate a day of giving on Tuesday. Tweet your support for the poor using #inhonorof @Pontifex to share what you and your family are doing to show love for the poor. Every little bit helps – let’s make this a worldwide celebration!

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About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at and connect with her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

  • BarbInNebraska

    I love this Lisa! I had the same idea! I just got back from Costco. I’m donating socks and toilet paper to our local homeless shelter. I know it’s not glamorous, but needed for the homeless. Should we have a hashtag? Perhaps #inhonorof @Pontifex

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  • Patty Macias

    I love the campaign our organization has just started – #PopeMoving – thanks to the vision of our national director, Father Andrew Small OMI!

  • Celes :)

    Thanks for all the loving words you dedicated to the new Pope. As Argentinian, it makes me very proud that all around the world you are speaking about our country. I’m so happy for him!
    Greetings for you from Buenos Aires, have a nice weekend!

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  • Meredith Gould, PhD

    Just wonderful. Feeling more and more relief; happier and happier; optimistic that Gospel values are being revived and will be lived more fully because of the great example we now have in Pope Francis.

  • Julie

    Great ideas, Lisa!
    My family just made a monetary donation to CRS in honor of Pope Francis, and I listed your article as the prompting of the gift. :-)
    God Bless!

    • Lisa Hendey

      Julie – just think if every family in America could make a small gift at this time, what a difference CRS could make in the world! Thank you for your generosity – I know that it is greatly appreciated!!

  • Graciesmom

    My 9-year-old started up a charity called Change The Poor. It’s a simple enough idea – she collects loose change and donates it to the Comboni Missionaries where 100% goes to feeding the neediest kids in Ethiopia. She says she likes Pope Francis because he likes to help the poor just like she does! :)

  • Kurt

    I write this with a heavy heart, but I used to do all of those things. But I have ceased all financial giving to the Catholic Church and Catholic agencies. I give no less, but to other agencies. With some bishops holding up Catholic Charities as a way to attack public programs, I simply cannot endorse those charges.

    • Lisa M. Hendey

      Kurt thank you for commenting and for giving to aid the poor according to your conscience. Blessings.

  • Laura Pearl

    This post was beautiful, and inspiring–like our new pope.

  • Helen Deines

    Great blog! How about uplifting the working poor by advocating for a living wage? Even more practical, research where we spend our money. Shop where employers pay a living wage, or at least include benefits with a low wage so workers can afford to support their own children.

    When we spend our money at places that pay a minimum wage with no benefits, we make it impossible for employees’s families to survive. For example, our public school system had over 11,000 homeless students last year. I am learning it it not enough to be charitable…it really is important to act in solidarity with the poor to build fair, just systems.

    Thanks for your good work.