While we were all given a name at birth, the pope chooses his name when elected. If we want to understand Pope Francis, we should start by understanding why he choose “Francis.”

“Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis,” said the pope himself. “Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis De Sales, and also Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story.

“For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.”

“During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two-thirds, there was the usual applause, because the pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor!’ And those words came to me: the poor, the poor.

“Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation…” (Pope Francis, March 16, 2013)

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The U.S. media would like us to think that Pope Francis is obsessed with economic models and structures, hyperfocused on global warming, and aggressively trying to change many of the core social teachings of the Catholic Church (even though he clearly stated he is a “son of the Catechism”). As Catholics, we believe that Pope Francis is above all the Vicar of Christ and universal pastor of souls, and he clearly stated his main concerns in his own words above.

He is sending a clear signal to a materially focused and attached world.

A man of poverty: How can you not admire the simplicity and austerity of Pope Francis? From his humble apartment in Buenos Aires and daily rides on the subway, to his “toning down” of the entire Vatican way of being, he is a “detached” man who is sending a clear signal to a materially focused and attached world.

He also reminds us that we are all one family and we need to be concerned about everyone, especially the poor and those in greater need. I watched a video from one of the pope’s pastoral visits in Italy and saw how the papal “Ford Focus” suddenly pulled off a busy highway.

The pope had noticed a badly deformed boy in a wheelchair and asked his driver to pull over so he could bless this boy and his parents. My eyes welled up with tears when I saw the pope kiss this boy on the forehead, offer a warm smile and then a heartfelt blessing. Like Jesus, he has huge love for the marginalized and we could learn so much from his example. He truly lives it.

A man of peace: Peace begins in the heart, it begins on your knees in prayer, and once again Pope Francis leads by example.

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His fervor in celebrating Mass, his great love for Christ in the Eucharist and for our Blessed Mother all show through. This prayerful spirit is clearly the motor that drives his ministry. It was so powerful to see him kneel before a priest in confession at St. Peter’s before he himself assumed this role of confessor. Who can forget when Pope Francis humbly asked the world to pray for him shortly after he was elected pope!

He believes in the power of prayer, and he has continually asked us to pray for world peace, especially in these turbulent times.

A man who loves and protects creation: His recent encyclical, “Laudato Si,” focused on the environment, but in a holistic and unifying way. Human beings are at the heart of the environment, and the need to respect life and the dignity of man was a major part of this document.

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From an ecological perspective, I have been to parts of Latin and South America on mission trips, and seen the effects of man’s carelessness on the environment — garbage dumps in the middle of towns where the poor are always looking for food or even shelter, chemically altered rivers and streams that are used for drinking water and washing clothes, air quality in major cities that leaves you nauseous and with a headache. This is real, and although here in America we clearly do not have this problem, the pope is rightly sounding the alarm to the global community. We live in a culture of excess, and the pope challenges us not to think just of our own good, but indeed, the common good of the world.

These characteristics seem to be resonating with millennials and many who have wandered away from the fold. I was recently sitting next to a 29-year-old man on a commuter train. He had been raised Catholic, but like 80 percent of our current millennials (according to a recent poll), he no longer practices the faith.

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He said, “Father Michael, the sex scandals in the clergy and the hypocrisy of many self-righteous and Sunday Catholics who live a pagan lifestyle, have left me with little desire to come back to the Church.”

Then he thought for a moment and said, “But, you know Father Michael, this pope is making me think about returning. He is more open minded, he is truly concerned about the poor and lives a simple and inspiring lifestyle.”