The new pope, San Francisco, and USF are all named after St. Francis of Assisi. How appropriate! The legacy of St. Francis has shaped our city and our university and, no doubt, will shape the papacy of the first Jesuit pope, Francis.
Serving the Poor and Marginalized
St. Francis chose a life of abject poverty and spent his life helping the poor and marginalized. Pope Francis reminded us in his inaugural Mass that we should “embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.” That legacy lives on at USF, where students logged 323,081 hours of community service in the past academic year, and in the city, where Healthy San Francisco provides health care to the uninsured, the first initiative of its kind in the nation.
Love for the Environment
St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment and he preached a reverence for the earth. “Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment,” said Pope Francis. It is fitting that San Francisco is home to the Sierra Club, one of the oldest and most influential environmental organizations in the country. It ranked USF one of America’s “coolest schools” for its green initiatives and education in sustainability.
Respect for Diversity
During the Fifth Crusade, as Christian armies battled Muslims for Jerusalem, St. Francis made a bold move: he crossed enemy lines to meet with the Sultan of Egypt. His goal was to bring peace by converting the sultan. Though unsuccessful, he returned with a call for Christians and Muslims to live in harmony. Pope Francis also urges inter-faith dialogue and wrote in 2011, “Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect for the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It assumes that there is room in the heart for the person’s point of view, opinion, and proposal.” In that spirit, San Francisco is the birthplace of the United Nations, and U.S. News and World Report ranks USF eighth in the nation for ethnic diversity.
Challenger of the Status Quo
St. Francis spent his youth partying and enjoying the luxuries afforded by his family’s wealth. But the saint renounced his old way of life, traded in his fashionable garb for a dirty robe, and lived among lepers. Pope Francis also challenges the status quo. He took a bus hours after he was elected rather than the papal car. He lives in the Vatican guesthouse and is the first pope since 1903 to turn down life in the formal papal residence. With its strong emphasis on individuality and counterculture, the spirit of rejecting the status quo lives on in the City by the Bay.