"Pope Francis lit up with a broad smile when I pulled the Siena shirt out of a bag and asked for a photo. He asked about Siena College, the meaning of the 'Saints,' and why the color green."
In 2013, Br. Michael Perry, OFM, was elected general minister of the Order of Friars Minor, the 120th successor of St. Francis of Assisi. Br. Michael is only the third American to serve as general minister and faithfully led the order until his term expired in 2021. As the successor to St. Francis, it's not uncommon to have an audience with the Pope. On October 6, Br. Michael met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, and part of their conversation focused on Siena College.
"Pope Francis told me the only way forward for humanity is for people to abandon the temptation to exercise control over land and peoples and to pursue the path of holiness, the path of becoming saints. That path, said the Pope, that journey, is made by seeking sincere human friendship, fraternity and solidarity. I suggested that this is what Siena College intends when speaking about becoming "Saints." The Pope told me this is a very good thing to do."
Br. Michael's personal relationship with Siena deepend this spring when he was awarded an honorary degree from the College and addressed the Class of 2022 during Commencement. Br. Michael has met with the Pope on many occasions, but sharing in conversation with the successor to St. Peter never feels routine.
"First, it is a great honor to meet a religious leader of the world, someone who identifies himself with the poor and forgotten, who weeps with those who suffer violence and with a planet under severe stress due, in part, to human activity. And it is a special blessing to meet the spiritual leader of our Church. Second, Pope Francis is more than a pope. Each time I meet him, I witness a human being who is prayerful and a deep thinker who exudes an inner peace and profound joy."
When their conversation turned to Siena, Pope Francis offered his prayers and humbly made a request.
"The Pope asked me to let all Saints know that he is praying for them. He then asked that all Siena Saints pray for him."
But why was Siena at the focus of the meeting? Br. Michael will be on campus November 22 to, among other engagements, participate in a blessing of the new St. Francis statue that will be installed in front of Patricia Gioia Hall next Friday. The campus community will be invited to the blessing, at which time more details about Br. Michael's meeting with the Pope will be shared as part of an exciting announcement that will impact Siena's future.
Br. Michael mentioned that before he departed the Vatican, Pope Francis did what he has always done before they leave each other's company. He told a joke. According to Br. Michael, "He has a great sense of humor." Prior to the joke, Pope Francis had one more message for Siena...
"Tell the Saints they have my blessing, and do not lose heart when they meet resistance."
Save the date for a community event with Br. Michael on Tuesday, November 22 at 3:30 p.m. More details to follow!