FRANCIS

PRAY FOR ME – the first request and the first gift of the new Bishop of Rome – the “Eternal City” – twelve months ago today.

Of all the marvellous and extraordinary qualifications that this humble pastor brings to his gargantuan task, the one that is most conspicuously present, in his every action, is this great gift: the perpetual willingness to imply “I cannot do this in my own strength. I really need YOU to pray for ME”.

And this constant request is a gift for people everywhere because it gives honoured place to the contribution of ones, twos, tens, hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, towards the Franciscan “rebuilding and restoring” that is the vocation of “all men and women of goodwill” – not just Roman Catholics, not just Christians, but billions of good and perfectly ordinary people, of all ages, of every race and language, all over the world.

Pope Francis seems to suggest that “if mine is an important task, then yours is too. Pray for me, as I pray for you.”

The beautiful sight of Blencathra emerging from mist this afternoon was a suggestive one on this first anniversary. Inspired by the Christ who climbed mountains and hills before him, Pope Francis must, nonetheless, feel himself faced by a long haul. May the prayers he requests every day sustain him. The summit emerges in good time – revealing light and warmth and hitherto unimagined glories.

A year after his first Papal request I’m still celebrating – and acting upon – the gift of the Pope’s having invited me to pray for him. And I’m the more grateful for others’ prayers – throughout my life – for me.

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