This week Pope Francis is visiting the United States with a packed schedule. He will be in Washington DC Wednesday and Thursday where he will visit the President, visit congress, meet with U.S. bishops, canonize Junipero Serra, and visit St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in D.C. and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. On Friday the Pope visits the United Nations. leads worship services at the 9/11 memorial and Madison Square Gardens. Saturday and Sunday will be spent in Philadelphia to hold mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, the World Meeting of Families and also possibly during his visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. Just a listing of these scheduled events informs us about some of the regular duties of Pope Francis and his predecessors.
To understand the work of the Pope properly we must go back to the beginning, to the first Pope who according to the Catholic church was the apostle of Jesus named Simon Peter. Jesus in Matthew 16:18-19 made a play on his name: “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” In John 21 Jesus assigned Peter his duties: “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’” The Pope is first and foremost a shepherd and counselor. He is to care for the people.
Pope Francis awakens at 4:45 a.m. and begins his day praying, reading scripture, and writing his morning message. Daily time in the morning is important as it helps set the agenda for the day. As a spiritual leader for the world the Pontiff must find daily nourishment from the scripture and from readings of the saints. And although two hours of quiet time in the morning is short, the Pope will take more time during the day to say the rosary, to pray and meditate, and reserves time for prayer in the evening.
The Pope celebrates mass in Santa Martha’s chapel at 7:00 a.m. During the mass he partakes of the Eucharist and then shares a short homily. The message shared in this service is to encourage the church and to cast vision for the people. This service made for insiders is also open to guests. At the end of the service Pope Francis often moves to the back row to pray among the people. When he is finished praying he goes to the atrium and greets the people.
Following mass the the Pope enters a small cafeteria in the building and eats breakfast with friends and guests. It is said Pope Francis seldom eats alone. Pope Francis enjoys people and as the shepherd of the church knows the importance of spending as much time as possible with his flock or people who need him. Guests can be bishops, employees, dignitaries, or anyone else.
Each day after breakfast and including lunch and dinner are filled with a full schedule. The only break in the day for Pope Francis is a short nap, following which he is right back at work. Many appointments are required official business as head of the church, leader of bishops, the head of state, encourager of the people or as an employer of people, Other appointments are set by the Pope himself to see friends and people of interest. The Pope maintains close friendships with members of the Vatican community, bishops from around the world and people he knows in his home country. Pope Francis sets the time and duration for each appointment according to his own preference. His time is full even on Sundays when he makes phone calls to people around the world including friends in Argentina and prisoners he used to visit when he lived there.
Pope Francis maintains a small, uncluttered office in Santa Martha’s chapel so everything is close and efficient. Items in the office include an icon of St. Francis, a statue of Our Lady of Luján, patron saint of Argentina, a crucifix and a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. Following supper the Pope spends time in prayer, and then gets in bed about 9:00 p.m. and spends an hour reading before he goes to sleep.
Life for the Pope has become busier and busier through history. At one time the Pope was bishop for but a small area of Italy, however over the course of time that changed. As the church grew the it became important to manage the growth of dioceses, to discuss hot topics with dissenters, to share the gospel beyond the civilized borders of Rome, and to guide people, nations and kings. In the Middle Ages the Pope raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica, and because of his influence throughout Europe the office of the Holy See also took on a more political tone.
The world is a place of growth. The Roman Catholic Church touches the lives of 1.2 billion people or 17% of the world population. There are Catholic churches and bishops on every continent, and the Pope as the representative of Christ and under the same commission as Saint Peter must minister to each person. The Pope travels the world and along the way ministers to the people who serve within the church.
The Pope also goes with an agenda. He recognizes the powerful position of his office, and desires to use his office to help impoverished people and bring world peace. As the Pope travels he brings messages of hope, spiritual teaching, and desired change. The Pope seeks to share the gospel in balance with his message of social justice and world peace. The Pope seeks to correct wrong doctrine and actions for all people within the sound of his voice.