One of my favorite aspects of Elisabetta Piqué’s biography of Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is her inclusion of many interviews with people who knew him, worked with him, were trained and taught by him. Here’s one story that indicates the character of the pope-to-be.
“I joined the Society to study, not to look after pigs!” the seminarian Ernesto Giobando protests one day to Jorge Bergoglio, then Rector of the Colegio Máximo. “First go and feed the pigs, that’s what the Society is asking of you now, then go and study,” the future pope, then forty-two, wisely replies.
After the hard years as Provincial, Bergoglio occupies the post of Rector of the Colegio Máximo from 1979 to 1985. He teaches theology but doesn’t stop at what is in the books. Neither does he shut himself up in his office. He preaches by example.
Bergoglio is an unconventional rector. He does the washing, cooks for everyone, works in the fields, and even takes care of the pigs. And he keeps the doors of the Colegio Máximo open to welcome the people of the poor areas that surround it. He gives away land and builds five churches, most with Jesuit names: the parish Church of St. Joseph the Patriarch—a saint he is devoted to—of which he will become parish priest; then St. Francis Xavier, in the Manuelita neighborhood; St. Alonso Rodríguez, in Don Alfonso; St. Peter Claver, in Parque; and the Holy Martyrs.
“We used to get up at six and go to pray at six thirty. During that time, Bergoglio would wash and hang out the washing. On Sundays he sometimes waited for us with food. These things came naturally to him, not that he was supposed to do them. I worked for several years in the pig sty, and the thing that was most beautiful, that gave us more strength, was that he stood next to us, rolled up his sleeves, and wielded the spade. He wasn’t the kind to stay behind a desk. For a young seminarian these are very important things. You remember them,” said Father Giobando.
“He was a man of God but also a man who is able to govern—a rare, indeed unique, combination. He didn’t lose the spiritual dimension, but neither did he lose the human one. . . . He enjoyed cooking but also eating . . . he used to cook us paella—that was spectacular! He also appreciated music and literature,” recalls Father Ángel Rossi, a Jesuit.
- What about this story of Jorge Bergoglio stands out for you, and why?
- Recall a truly good leader in your own life. Identify some of that person’s best character traits.
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