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Book Review: How to Lead Like Francis

To join the discussion of Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads, or to order a copy, go here

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Pope Francis has set the world spinning around the Catholic Church in a way that hasn’t happened for a long time. Like all great leaders, he has also inspired criticism from some quarters, most of it, ironically, from devout Catholics who fear change.

I understand these discomfited change-fearers. When it comes to the Church, I’m a bit of a change-fearer myself. I draw comfort from the liturgy and the teachings. What some people see as intransigence on the part of the Church, I see as stability and strength; something I can count on in this crazy world.

However, the Church is a living organism, the great Body of Christ in the world. As a living organism, change, however slowly it happens, is part of its essential nature. The key to successful change is the guidance of the Holy Spirit, primarily, but not entirely, through the leadership of the Pope.

Everywhere I look, everyone I read, is chattering about the Catholic Church these days. The reason? Pope Francis’ straightforward leadership style of going to people and meeting them where they are.

It is a simple fact that you can’t be a leader if nobody follows you. In our power-hungry world where so-called leaders insulate themselves from everyone except other leaders of their same rank and place, true leadership, as opposed to simply holding a position with a leadership title, is rare.

Witness our latest Congressional debacle. Was there any leadership in it? None that I saw, not from either side. It was a pie-throwing contest in which the pie throwers absolutely did not care if anybody followed their so-called leadership.

In truth, no one can be more alienated from their “followers” that those who occupy positions of “leadership” in commerce, industry, politics, and yes, religion, in America today.

That, more than anything else, is why the whole world is responding to Pope Francis. He is reaching out to them, and they are responding by reaching back.

Pope Francis: Why He Leads The Way He Leads, analyzes Pope Francis’ leadership through the author’s knowledge of Jesuit formation and the Holy Father’s own biography. As such, it is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to learn more about our pope. It is also just plain good advice for those who want to lead other human beings.

I have a master’s degree in management, and I’ve spend 18 years of my life holding a leadership position in the public sphere. I have never seen a better book on how a true leader gets people to follow him or her.

It’s simple actually. Leadership is service. Leadership is about the people you want to lead, not you. True leadership begins with a foundation of personal character and segues into a focus on serving others.

What that means is building products, providing services, writing books, making movies, enacting laws, preaching sermons, repairing plumbing and planting crops that enrich and elevate the people who use your wares. In commerce, it means that if you build a better mousetrap, it will sell. In child-rearing, it means that if you spend time with your kids, they will flourish. In politics, it means that if you put the people first, the country will thrive. In faith, it means that if you reach out to people in love, as Pope Francis is doing, they will reach back.

The author makes a strong case that Pope Francis’ leadership style is heavily influenced by his Jesuit training. But I believe it is even more heavily influenced by that other hands-on leader — Jesus of Nazareth.

He, like the Pope, did not refuse to dine with sinners, to speak complex truths simply, to reach out to sinful people in ways that the more persnickety of the religious of His day found scandalizing.

Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads is an excellent analysis of our Holy Father’s leadership style. It provides insight into the origins of this pope’s thinking in a format that connects all this to our own leadership challenges in our workaday lives.

Pope Francis is more than just a rule-meister who issues guidelines like thunderbolts. He is a leader who gets down in the pits with the rest of us and leads by example and by inclusion.

This book makes that explicable. I highly recommend it.

Pope Francis and the Devil


Mention of the devil offends people.

They don’t like to hear about him, any more than they want to hear about hell. The devil and hell are not a real entity and a real place we are told. They are the boogeyman and the boogeyplace that we Christians use to scare people into conversion.

Many Christians also dismiss the devil and hell. Back when I was a protestant, I was often corrected by my various pastors about my belief in both a literal hell and a literal devil. “Hell is separation from Christ,” I was told. “It is, simply the grave with no resurrection.”

“The devil is not an actual personality,” I heard another time. “There is no such thing.”

But the truth is, Jesus spoke often and graphically about both hell and the devil. There is no indication in any of His words that hell is a state of mind or that the devil was a figment of religious imagination. On the contrary, Jesus gave us our most clear portrait of both these realities.

Pope Francis, far from being politically correct, goes against this modern tide and speaks often of the devil and his works in our lives.

Why?

Maybe because, as a pastor of souls, he has met the devil many times. I’ve said before that it is a scalding, life-changing thing to look into another person’s eyes and see the devil looking back at you. Perhaps Pope Francis has had this experience. If he has, it would explain a lot.

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You’re Pope Francis? Well, then, I’m Napoleon!

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Andreas, the Jesuit receptionist must have a short fuse.

At least it appears he does considering his quick response to what he thought was a crank caller. It was an understandable mistake. After all, everybody knows that popes don’t dial their own phones. According to a Vatican official, “When the pope wants to call someone, an official usually calls a secretary who places the call.”

That’s the way things have always been.

Until now.

Francis, the black-shoe-wearing-hotel-bill-paying Pope is also a telephone-call-making Pope. He phoned a Jesuit residence in Rome last Friday wanting to speak to the superior general of his old Jesuit order.

The man who answered the phone, who has been identified only as Andreas, wasn’t about to be pranked. “Oh yes?” he said to the Pope. “And I’m Napoleon.”

Then he asked, “Who is it?”

When the Holy Father answered, “I really am Pope Francis. Do not worry Andreas, just connect me with the Father General. I would like to thank him for the charming letter.” Andreas seemed to figure things out. After all, who else talks like that? He apologized, and according to an article in the Mail, is now “extremely distraught” over his mistake.

After watching Pope Francis in action this past week, I doubt that Andreas has anything to worry about. I would guess that a black-shoe-wearing-hotel-bill-paying-phone-call-making Pope is not all that easily offended.

The Lord Loves Us So Much, He Gave Us This Immense Gift

“The Lord loves us so much, He gave us this immense gift.”

That’s how retired Cardinal Estanisiao Karlic of Argentina describes the election of his friend, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the Papacy.

Cardinal Karlic says that Pope Francis “carries in his heart the message of the Gospel so that it be spread throughout the world and received by all men and women, that it may infuse in us a missionary and evangelical spirit, to the ends of the earth, such that there be no place in the world where the name of Jesus is not heard.”

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The Holy Father “is a very simple man” who is “capable of confronting the simplest and also the most complex of issues,” Cardinal Karlic continued. 

“He is a man of reflection who puts his wisdom into action. He did so first in leading the Jesuits, later in the Diocese of Buenos Aires, and now in leading the Church as the Supreme Pontiff.”

.- The retired cardinal of Parana, Argentina, described his friend Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio – now Pope Francis – as an able pastor with the heart of a missionary.

In an interview with CNA, Cardinal Estanislao Esteban Karlic said it was a “huge surprise” to see his friend appear on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica dressed in white. 

“The Lord loves us so much, he gave us this immense gift.”

“I pray to God that I will not forget that moment so that I can thank him and so that I can pray for our beloved brother Jorge whom we will now call Francis,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Karlic said Pope Francis will help everyone “understand once again that we all have something to give to others, we all have something to receive from others.”

This is true, he said, “because the truth of God, of the Church, of humanity, is communion among those who love each other as brothers and sisters, as individuals, as families, as nations.”

The Holy Father “is a very simple man” who is “capable of confronting the simplest and also the most complex of issues,” Cardinal Karlic continued. 

“He is a man of reflection who puts his wisdom into action. He did so first in leading the Jesuits, later in the Diocese of Buenos Aires, and now in leading the Church as the Supreme Pontiff.” (Read the rest here.) 

Pope Says He Took Name from St Francis of Assisi, Explains Why

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After all the chitter chatter about the Holy Father’s choice of Francis as his name, we now have an explanation from someone who knows.

Pope Francis explained his name choice today. He verified that he chose the name because of St Francis of Assisi. He said that the intention of choosing the name Francis “came to my heart” as the voting showed that he would probably be elected pope. 

He explained that he chose the name because St Francis was “the man of the poor. The man of peace. The man who loved and cared for creation and in this moment we don’t have such a great relationship with the Creator. The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the man who wanted a poor church.” 

The following article from The Guardian has details:

Pope Francis described on Saturday how he was inspired to take the name of Saint Francis of Assisi by the importance of helping the poor.

At his first press conference in the Vatican, Pope Francis broke from his prepared comments to describe the final hours of the conclave that elected him pope. He said: “Let me tell you a story.”

Francis said he was comforted by his friend, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, as it appeared the voting was favouring him and it seemed “a bit dangerous” that he would reach the two-thirds necessary to be elected.

“He hugged me. He kissed me. He said don’t forget about the poor,” Francis recalled. “And that’s how in my heart came the name Francis of Assisi.”

He said some people have asked why he took the name, Francis, since it also could suggest references to other figures including the co-founder of the pope’s Jesuit order, Francis Xavier. But he said his intention came to his heart as an inspiration immediately after the election. St. Francis of Assisi, the pope said, was “the man of the poor. The man of peace. The man who loved and cared for creation and in this moment we don’t have such a great relationship with the creator. The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man who wanted a poor church.”

He then joked that some other cardinals suggested other names: Hadrian VI, after a great church reformer, a reference to the need for the pope to clean up the Vatican’s messy bureaucracy. Someone else suggested Clement XV, to counter Clement XIV who suppressed the Jesuit order. (Read the rest here.) 


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