Early on in his pontificate, Pope Francis shared his great affection for St. Matthew since it was on his feast day, September 21, 1953 that the young Bergolio experienced the strong call to be a priest after going to confession.
Recently when he was asked about this experience he said:
“You asked me to share my memory – how it was – that first call on September 21st, 1953 – but I don’t know how it was: I know that, by chance, I walked into church, I saw a confessional, and I came out different.”
A Motto for A Vocation: “miserando atque eligendo”
That experience of the vocation—of “being different”—remained so tied to the Feast of St. Matthew that as bishop he chose his episcopal motto from the Office of Readings for the feast day, a homily by the Venerable Bede (673-735) about the moment of St. Matthew’s conversion: “miserando atque eligendo”. As pope, Francis integrated this motto into his coat of arms.
He chose a quote from the following passage:
Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, ‘Sequere me’. [Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, ‘follow me’.]
The phrase is hard to translate since it penetrates the manner in which Christ looked at St. Matthew…a two-step condition for calling him: “having mercy” and “choosing”. Yet it also captures a truth of every vocation, the fact that the call is always the Lord’s complete initiative and that no one merits the vocation. Rather every vocation is a divine work of mercy reflecting our reality before God, and His love despite our sinfulness.
On this feast of St. Matthew as we await the arrival of Pope Francis, let us pray for our Holy Father and for the fruits of his visit to Cuba and here to the United States. St. Matthew, pray for us! St. Bede the Venerable, pray for us!
Complete text of the Second Reading below:
Second Reading: A sermon by St Bede the Venerable
Homily 21 (CCL 122, 149-151)
Jesus saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him