JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 150

san damiano cross2Grown men cry at football matches and perhaps one or two have a sly weep at the movies. I cry at papal elections - or to be more precise at that moment when the pope comes out to the balcony.

Yes it takes all sorts but let me expand on this because this time around something very special happened. I want to begin not with the conclave, the election itself,

but with a little prayer postcard I was given at the age of 17 by my parish priest. It has a picture of the St Damiano Cross with the words in speech marks "Go Francis and repair my church which you see is in ruin." It is the vision that Francis of Assisi has in the ruined church outside his home town. I remember the elderly priest looking at me with warm misty eyes as he thrust this card in my hand. It had been a tough year and I had lost my dear grandfather who adopted me and this kindly minister had been with me through all my grief and despair. "Do you know that your surname means 'Francis' - Francis is Italian for the Frenchman." He said no more but I treasured this little card.

I did well by it. I studied for year at Canterbury with the Franciscans and met my wife, Frances, outside in that seminary car park. We called our son after the priest who gave me the card and called my daughter Francesca. Indeed, after marrying me my wife has often joked that her name translates as Frances Frances. Saint Francis has not done bad from my family. Frances and I shared an unspoken dream that one day a pope would come along and take the name Francis and live a remarkably simple life. When in 2013 on 13 March the announcement came it read: "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum:Habemus Papam;Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum Dominum,Dominum Jorge Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem Bergoglio,Qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum." At that last word Franciscum I did, I have to confess, burst into tears. I say this as a loyal Anglican.

This is not to hero worship somebody like Jorge Bergoglio. Rather it is that he highlights in name and deed what is at the heart of Christian ministry and sadly what has been missing for sometime.

I say 'missing' but this is not quite acurate. There have been noble saintly Christians doing this all over the globe but perhaps what they have been doing has never been put at the front of the world's eyes. We've forgotton for too long what it means to follow Jesus. It's been drowned out or trivialised. You know whenever the new bishop of Rome goes a common placard and chant from the crowds is 'Rebuild my Church'. But this is not down to one super Christian but to each of us.

When Francis stood in that ruined church of San Damiano he thought the mystical vision was directing him to do a bit of DIY Rescue. And why not? To repair a building is something tangible. This is within the skills set of most parish church councils. However, it became clear to the poor preacher of Assisi that the real task was not the bricks and mortars but the hearts and minds within the universal church. The great task is rebuilding community. Saint Paul knew that and at the end of his first epistle to the Corinthians you can almost feel him penning his frustration as he recounts that it is love more than anything else that will cement our spiritual architecture.