EDIT: I sit corrected, St. Francis of Assisi was who the Pope was thinking about when he picked his name.
I read somewhere that the Pope's choice of name is his first message to the world.
So, what does 'Francis' mean? Let's look at the St. Francises in the Church...or not. There are over 70 of them. That's a post I don't want to write and I'm sure you don't want to read. So, let's instead limit ourselves to the best known ones.
St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
St. Francis of Assisi was born in Assisi to wealthy parents. He was a spoiled brat and lived a life of sin. He dreamed of glory in battle and when the opportunity came, he went. He never made it to battle though. He had a dream in which God told him that this was not His will so he went back home. He was laughed at for being a coward, but he devoted himself to prayer waiting to see what was God's will.
He finally heard back in the form of a mystical experience with the cross at the church of St. Damiano. He was told to "fix my church." At first he took it literally, but he gradually realized that God meant figuratively. He married Lady Poverty. He preached and started an order of friars. He is known for his love of the environment and the poor. For better or worse, in recent years, devotion to St. Francis has gone far and beyond the doors of the Catholic Church. I heard about him for the first time when I was still practicing Wicca. He has become a truly ecumenical figure who is admired throughout the world.
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
He took his sweet time to answer to his vocation, but once he did, he embraced a crazy missionary zeal wanting to convert Protestants back. He was not successful in his initial door to door efforts, but then he had a novel idea. He wrote out sermons and stuck copies under doors. This was much more successful than banging down people's doors. It is because of this brilliant idea that he became the patron saint of journalists and writers.
With St. Jane de Chantal, he founded the Visitation order. Known as the Salesian sisters, their main mission is teaching. This order is found all over the world. The first picture of my last post, you know, the one with the crazy nuns? That was made by a friend of mine who is discerning a vocation with the Salesians as we speak.
But, since he is a Jesuit, he likely was not thinking of either of these Francises. He was likely thinking of St. Francis Xavier.
St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)
He was one of the seven original Jesuits and a close friend of St. Ignatius. He is best known for the missions to India, China and Japan. He made many, many converts and he didn't use the typical methods of his day. Like the other two Francises, he was a pioneer.
Instead of imposing his own culture on the groups he evangelized, he embraced their culture and tried to teach the Gospel in their own language. He worked to "translate" the Gospel to the culture and language of the people and he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty by working with the sinners and the lowest of the low.
Let us pray that our new Pope shows the same evangelistic spirit of St. Francis Xavier and "translates" the Gospel for this new generation!