“And now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.” – Corinthians 13:13
Among the world’s core religions, Catholicism has had things mighty rough for the last half century. So rough, in faithful fact, it seemed as if this particular organized religion that has existed for millenia couldn’t withstand the changes and demands associated with these modern times and would more than likely end up on the waste pile of obsolete things which were no longer useful for humanity.
With its refusal to accept, let alone acknowledge such modern issues as same sex marriage, along with its projected image of hierarchal status and judgmental disapproval over seemingly everything, and lest we not forget the vast number of sex abuse scandals regularly emerging from its clergy, the dawn of the 21st century saw the Catholic Church becoming more and more distantly detached from the modern world with even its most faithful followers leaving in droves.
Even the role of being Pontiff was no longer seen as a divine vocation of life long dedication. In recent years it had reduced itself to being a mere job that came with a finite range of dates, as was seen when Pope Benedict XVI abdicated the Papacy in the winter of 2013.
But all that was until Pope Francis came to town…..
When Pope Benedict XVI told the world he was vacating his position as the leader of the Catholic Church in 2013, my hopes for the future of Catholicism were grim at best. This very non-optimistic perspective had formed mainly for two reasons. The first being my erroneous belief that when one was elected Pope, they were as such until they were no longer living. The second stemmed from the lesson learned of curbing my enthusiasm when the College of Cardinals convened to determine who would replace Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, back in April of 2005.
At the time of John Paul II’s death and throughout the voting process of the Polish Pontiff’s successor, a powerfully rare event was taking place astrologically involving the planet of spirituality, Neptune, with the planet of tradition breaking and uniqueness, Uranus. The two heavenly bodies were interacting in a process astrologically known as “mutual reception”.
I have defined mutual reception in past pieces as follows:
“Mutual reception is a temporary astrological climate where two planets are in each other’s sign of rulership. Uranus is currently transiting the sign of Pisces, the sign ruled by Neptune and Neptune is currently transiting the sign Uranus rules, Aquarius. When two planets are in mutual reception they almost act as a team by feeding each other the energies of their natural rulership.”
“Mutual Reception is when two planets are transiting the signs of the other’s rulership and act as a cosmic pinball machine to each other, heightening both planets’ energies and influences for all of us on Earth.”
With the process of mutual reception occurring between the planet associated with the highest forms of spirituality (Neptune) and of change itself (Uranus) in 2005, it seemed as if the Universe was bestowing the institution of Catholicism a cosmic window of opportunity to change, modernize, and come to terms with the darker sides of its past that were left purposefully unaddressed.
Instead, the Catholic Church dug its heels in the ground and side stepped things by electing Pope Benedict XVI.
To be fair, the man who supposedly begged God “not to be Pope” at the time of his election is considered to be one of the world’s most knowledgeable and well respected theologians and his Papal reign was described by Israel’s former Chief Rabbi, Yona Metzger, as “the best relations ever between the church and the chief rabbinate”.
Even with that said, upon his retirement at the age of 85, Benedict was the fourth oldest person to hold the office of Pope and his public image came across as being bookish yet unapproachable. To the non-secular world, the German Pontiff appeared to be emotionally distant yet seemingly in touch with a strong streak of derisive anger.
(The fact the man was a Hitler Youth, be it by force or otherwise didn’t help matters much either.)
Being the right hand man to the highly conservative John Paul II, Pope Benedict’s reign was a reprisal of Catholic traditionalism with things appearing to move backwards for the Church rather than forward into the modern day. Fiercely opposing any kind of modernist reform, Pope Benedict kept Catholicism staunchly set in its traditionalist ways. Even within the Church’s structure, Benedict’s attempts to reign in American nuns in 2012 practically started a feminist schism in its own right.
Safe to say when Benedict XVI resigned from the Papacy, Catholicism was well within the vicinity of that previously mentioned waste heap of religious obsolescence.
But Hope was rekindled when the College of Cardinals once again met in 2013. Without any visuals of the man, I sensed this newly elected Pope was both different and noteworthy by virtue of one thing – his chosen Papal name.
In Catholicism, the Roman numerals which follow a Pope’s name indicate the number of past Pontiffs who shared that same name before him.
23 Johns, 12 Pius’, 16 Gregorys and of course 16 Benedicts
Francis is the first of his kind, given his official title is Pope Francis I. So why no other Pontiffs with that name?
A Papal name is chosen when one is newly elected Pope and wishes to model themselves after the life or actions of the person whose name they have chosen.
The man whom Pope Francis wishes to emulate was a monk who lived nearly a millenia ago in the late 12th century. He began life the son of a wealthy merchant and later evolved into the leader of an order of nuns and priests dedicated to helping the poorest of the poor – St. Francis of Assisi.
When viewed from a perspective of strictly status, the life of St. Francis is rather unremarkable. The monk forsook the security of his family’s fortune by choosing the most simplistically humble of lifestyles. Francis passionately believed the best way one could honor God was by serving the poorest of the poor and his deeds of service drew followers to him by the droves.
Today, one and a half million Franciscans live throughout the world in the Orders which Francis originally founded. Franciscan institutions in the 21st century include colleges and universities, hospitals, missions serving the poor and marginalized, and organizations engaging in activities on behalf of peace and for environmental issues, both globally and locally.
By choosing the name of this remarkable man, the current Pope indicated to the world his reign would be moving away from the pomp and status driven displays of past Pontiffs by embracing the themes of “Faith, Hope, and Charity” through exemplary acts of humility, service, and mercy.
In Part II, analysis of Pope Francis’ birth chart reveals the life of a man karmicly chosen to be of service to both his religion and humanity at large.
***Brad Kronen’s latest book, “Love In The Stars” published by Llewelyn Worldwide, Inc. is now available for pre-order via Amazon.com.