Last week, the world watched closely as the Conclave of the Catholic Church gathered in Vatican City to select a new Pope. Possible names were tossed all over as commentators and on- lookers all took their best guesses at who would be named. One hour and six minutes after the white smoke billowed out of the Sistine Chapel chimney, the world got the chance to behold the new Pope. An Argentinean named Jorge Bergoglio had won the greatest honor of the Catholic Church. The name he had chosen, Francis. He was the first Jesuit to become the Pope and the first top take the name of Francis—after St. Francis of Assisi.
What struck me immediately—as I laid eyes on the new Pontiff as he walked out onto the Papal Balcony—was his apparent and evident humility. He did not step onto the balcony with his arms out-stretched—as is the typical stance for a Pope. Instead, with a slight wave, he then stood with his arms at his side, and his head bowed slightly; a most humble and unassuming posture for the new Pontiff. His humility was so transparent, that anyone of any religion or those with none, would have no choice but to admire and appreciate that this was a true man of humility.
In the ensuing minutes, we began to hear the reports of who this man was and how he conducted his life. He waived the right to abide within the Cardinal’s mansion and chose, instead, to take residence in an ordinary apartment among the people. He chose to use public transportation and not make use of the driver and limousine to which he was entitled. And he even cooked his own
meals—rather than have them cooked and served to him—as would be his right as Cardinal. It quickly became apparent to anyone—regardless of his or her religion—that this was a man of the people. This was a humble, unassuming man who thinks little of himself, and much of the people
whom he was there to serve.
You do not have to be a Catholic or even a believer in God to see the great virtue expressed through this man’s life. This is a rare occasion to witness a person of authority—a person in a position of power and influence—who actually recognizes that they who hold such positions should be servants, not stalwarts, over those whom they serve. Their actions and behavior should
serve as the model for others, not the exception. Their words, deeds and motives tailored to inspire and move people toward the achievement of quiet virtue, not opulence and pride of privilege.
Can we but begin to imagine all leaders—of all institutions—upholding and embodying such virtue? Is it possible to imagine CEO’s, managers, politicians, teachers and all in positions of trust and authority wearing the cloak of a servant, not the badge of an authority? Yes. Indeed we do have those people. But they are the exception, it seems, not the rule. But we know when we
have them—as they are known by their fruits. They who are served by their leaders who act as servants are they whose lives become enriched, enchanted and inspired. There is a reason why humility is a virtue. Its fruit is rooted in the knowledge that we are all one and one person’s weakness is complemented by another’s strength. To those who much is given, much is expected. May those whose authority is great serve their people with greatness.
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