Eight popes each have been named Urban, Stephen and Boniface. A dozen pontiffs bore the name Pius, while there have been 13 Leos and the same number of Innocents. The recently retired Pope Benedict was the 16th with that name, which is also the number of popes named Gregory. Pope John XXIII, the man who put into motion Vatican II, chose the most popular papal name for his own.

It's hard to believe that in nearly 2,000 years, no pope has been named Francis, at least until this week with the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Catholicism's highest office.

Several of the cardinals who witnessed Cardinal Bergoglio becoming Pope Francis state that the new pope chose the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was a man who abandoned his family's wealth to serve God humbly, help the poor and build up the Catholic Church.

Initially, there was some speculation that the new pope chose Francis in honor of St. Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Society of Jesus. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to assume the high office. St. Francis was noted for devoting his life to taking God's word to others.

Nobody mentioned another Franciscan saint - St. Francis de Sales. He encouraged everyone to live a holy life whatever their vocation was.

Pope Francis will need the humility and concern for the poor of St. Francis of Assisi, the evangelical fire of St. Francis Xavier in spreading the great tidings of God's love, and the devotion of St. Francis de Sales in encouraging everyone to lives devoted to God. All those qualities will be needed in this increasingly "Godless" world.

But, most of all, Pope Francis will need the prayers of all - saints and sinners alike.


Pray for faith; pray in faith.