The confession that shocked Pope Francis

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Did you know that the vocation of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the current Pope Francis, began with a confession he made in September 1953, the eve of his 17th birthday?

On Friday, March 8, Pope Francis will preside over a penitential celebration in the parish of Saint Pius V, west of Rome, during which he will receive several faithful in confession. At the beginning of his pontificate, the Argentine Pope caused surprise by confessing himself in this celebration, which takes place every year during Lent Probably because it was precisely this sacrament that inspired his vocation.

«On the feast of Saint Matthew in 1953, the young Jorge Bergoglio, 17 years old, experienced in a very special way the loving presence of God in his life.After a confession, he felt moved by his heart and the descent of the mercy of God who, with a look of tender love, called him to religious life, following the example ofSaint Ignatius of Loyola,” notes the Vatican website.

In fact, Pope Francis has often confided to us this turning point in his life, which occurred on September 21, 1953, the evangelist’s feast day, which was also “Student’s Day” in Argentina. «I was getting ready to go on a picnic with my friends. I passed by the church of San José de Flores and entered (…) and felt the impulse to confess. I don’t know what happened, or how long the confession lasted. But I got up, returned home and little by little I realized that God was calling me,” he said in the book From the poor to the Pope, from the Pope to the world, published by Editions du Seuil in April 2022.

Bergoglio’s tears

The young Jorge Mario Bergoglio did not know this priest who, surprisingly, was a former theater actor. Originally from the province of Corrientes, he was in the Argentine capital to be treated for leukemia. His service as confessor in the church of San José, located on the immense Rivadavia avenue that extends for 35 kilometers and crosses all of Buenos Aires, was therefore purely occasional and fortuitous.

«Ten months after we met, he died.He was the one who guided me, the one who helped me.I continued to see him,” recalls Pope Francis.«After his funeral, I came home and cried and cried.I was distraught, I felt abandoned.I will always remember those tears.Afterwards, things went slowly.But certainty came that day of September 21, 1953. The certainty of a gift,” Pope Francis confesses in this book, with disarming sincerity.

However, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio continued his studies in chemistry until he entered the diocesan seminary in 1956, before suffering serious health problems, after which he joined the Jesuits. Due to the very long period of formation within the Society of Jesus, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was not ordained a priest until 1969, almost 16 years after his call, not without going through some periods of doubt. He would admit to having doubted his vocation after being moved by the “beauty and intellectual brilliance” of a young woman he met at a wedding when he was a seminarian. But, in the end, he would remain attached to the memory of this confession, which marked the end of his adolescence.

A moment both ordinary and extraordinary

Since the beginning of his pontificate, he has liked to evoke this moment, both ordinary and extraordinary, inviting all priests and consecrated persons to remember the moment of the “first call” that gave meaning and consistency to their vocation. Priestly or religious life cannot be the result of a “career plan” or an ambition planned by others, he constantly emphasizes, but is above all the result of a personal encounter with the Lord.

This memory is also at the origin of his episcopal motto, Miserando atqueelectando , which refers to the evangelical episode of the vocation of Saint Matthew, presented in the famous painting by Caravaggio that the future Pope Francis liked to contemplate in the church of Saint-Matthew. Louis des Français when he was in Rome as a cardinal. The full quote is found in a Latin homily by Saint Bede the Venerable, Doctor of the Church, who died in 735: Vidit ergo Iesus publicanum et quia miserando atque electing vidi, ait illi Sequere me – “Jesus saw a publican and looking at him With a feeling of love and choosing him, he said to him: Follow me.

The three words miserando atque electing are rich in interpretations, and can also be translated as “he chooses him ‘mercifully'”, that is, “wrapping him in his mercy.” This image is similar to that of the priest as a mediator of God’s mercy and as a simple “forgiven sinner.”

This manifestation of God’s love can occur at any time in life, even the most unexpected. The vocation and teaching of Pope Francis were born from the simple confession of an Argentine teenager who was walking with his friends more than 70 years ago. An experience of God’s mercy that he has never stopped wanting to share since then.

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