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11 Things Pope Francis has taught me in 11 years


Antoine Mekary | Aleteia

Annette M. O'Driscoll - published on 03/18/24

A Houston mom reflects on 11 lessons she's learned from Pope Francis.

Eleven years ago on March 13, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected to the papacy. He walked onto the balcony, introduced himself as Pope Francis, and asked us to pray for him.

On March 19, his papacy was inaugurated, a fact that the Pope has said he considers a “kindness from heaven.”

I think that in some way St. Joseph wanted to tell me that he would continue to help me, to be beside me, and I would be able to continue to think of him as a friend I could turn to, whom I could trust, whom I could ask to intercede and pray for me.

Here are 11 lessons Pope Francis has taught me throughout his papacy:

The meaning of mercy

In 2016, Pope Francis called for a Year of Mercy. In subtle ways, that year transformed my heart and continues to challenge me today. It invited me to really contemplate what mercy is, how the Father offers it, how the Son makes it available, and how the Holy Spirit helps me offer it in my daily living. Still to this day the fruits of that year continue to stretch the fibers of my heart with the mercy of the Lord. 

The importance of listening

In 2021, with the Synod on Synodality, we began a three-year process focused on listening and dialogue. I was selected to be a small group leader during one of the listening sessions my Archdiocese held. The experience strengthened my listening skills and allowed for others to do the same. I appreciate Pope Francis’ interest in knowing the Church today as it lives in a messy gray that God wants to enter, transform, and sanctify. 

The strength found in weakness

Between the pandemic and concerns around his health, Pope Francis has given us plenty of examples of how to surrender to the Lord in our weakness and allow God’s grace to be our strength. I have had my share of difficult times and while I still haven’t mastered surrendering wholeheartedly to the Lord, Pope Francis’ example serves as a constant reminder that the Lord is worth trusting completely.

To love God through the way I interact with others

I am impatient and sometimes — okay fine, a lot of times — I can be quick to judge. Through his 11 years as pope, Francis’ example reminds me to tame my judgment and practice patience toward myself and those around me. The love I show through patience and understanding are ways that I not only share the love of God in the world but also, a way for me to love the Lord who is present in everyone I encounter. 

The importance of reading documents; not clickbait

It is no secret that sometimes we are confused by what Pope Francis says. It has amazed me just how much we rely on the “headline” instead of reading the actual document published by the Vatican. Some documents can be quite lengthy, and that’s because they are rich and full of depth. 

In general, it’s not known what I usually say … people know what it’s said I say, and that thanks to the media which, as we know well, respond to partial, specific, or political interests.

In this regard, I think that Catholics – from the bishops down to the faithful in the parish – have a right to know what the pope really says … and not what the media say he says. Here the telephone game applies. Johnny told me that Janie said that … and so on goes the chain.

To seek to understand not to convince

Often, with a desire to evangelize, we fall into the trap of arguing with others, which only cancels out our efforts of evangelization. Pope Francis reminds me often that whenever I encounter someone who believes differently than me, that encounter is an opportunity to listen to the other, to find Christ in them, and to seek to understand where they are coming from. I’m not there to convince them I am right; I am there to be a vessel Jesus uses as He sees fit to make His love available to others.

To be more welcoming to the stranger

I am a very protective mother and when I go out running errands with my children, I tend to approach the world from a negative standpoint. While I know I am called to protect my children from worldly dangers, I am also called to live Matthew 25 and teach them how to live it as well. We have had opportunities to welcome the stranger and bring joy into a messy world while feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and comforting those who are suffering.

That sorrows and sufferings sanctify and glorify

Suffering is fun said no one ever. Yet, Pope Francis, along with the Communion of Saints, has shown us how we can take our suffering, offer it to the Lord, and let Him make something beautiful with it. 

To find JOY even in the difficult times

Of all the lessons, this one is the hardest for me. I like to dwell on what is difficult and often complain about it the whole way. Pope Francis has spoken about finding joy and remaining joyful even and most especially through difficult times. I have learned that JOY equals “Jesus Offers Yoke.” When I allow my suffering to be united with Christ’s, when I allow Jesus to console me during my difficulties, joy overflows because the worse case scenario for anything in life is being without Jesus. 


Smiling is the beginning of hospitality, of welcoming the stranger, of God’s unending love for each of us. Smiling at others recognizes their dignity. 

Let little children be little children

His openness to children only inspires me the more to be grateful for the children at my parish. Mass can be noisy, and there are little ones near me with all the wiggles and giggles and I can’t help but rejoice at the sounds and sights. Children are naturally curious and, depending on the age, their noises are appropriate. Perhaps they are not distractions but vessels the Lord uses to lift our gaze to him in love.

Personal GrowthPope FrancisSpiritual Life
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