Another lesser-known side of Francis is the deeply religious and pious man who put a strict emphasis on care for the sacred vessels at Mass, reverence for the Eucharist, and obedience to the Church.
"The one case where he's harsh in his deathbed confession is he says if there are any friars who are not Catholic or do not follow the books of the Roman Church for their services, they are to be arrested, put in chains, and held to be handed over to the corrector of the order, the Cardinal of Ostia," Fr. Augustine said.
Of Francis' nine letters, he added, "seven of them are basically dedicated to chastising priests for using unpolished chalices, dirty altar linen, and not keeping the sacrament in a suitable place."
This was actually a common practice of the time, Br. William noted, so much so that the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 spoke out about the need for better cleanliness in churches and for the Blessed Sacrament to be reserved in a suitable place.
Francis "made it a personal crusade of his not only to encourage others, particularly the clergy, to take care of churches a little bit better, but he personally would go with a broom and actually sweep out a church as a volunteer simply out of respect for the Eucharist and for the Lord," he noted.
And Francis also drew a "very strong connection between the Eucharist and the Nativity," he added, "that for him, his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the one who gives to the faithful the body of her son, is mirrored in the action of the priest at the Eucharist."
"So there's a strong connection between the Blessed Virgin and what he calls the hands of the priest and the womb of the Blessed Virgin – as these means by which the body of the Lord is given to the faithful."
Francis' devotion to the Eucharist also comes out in a letter he wrote to the Brothers and Sisters of Poverty where he described the "perfect act of poverty," as Fr. Augustine summarized it:
"And the perfect act of poverty was when God Who was ruler of the universe took on weak human flesh in the Incarnation, and then not only did God Who was the ruler of all take on weak human flesh, he allowed Himself to be subject to being rejected, maltreated, tortured and killed, and then not only that, even more perfectly as an act of poverty, God Who became Incarnate and died on the cross gave us His body as our own food."
That teaching "sums up everything about Francis," he said.
Claims that Francis excoriated the clergy for their decadence were false and circulated by excommunicates decades after his death, Fr. Augustine added.
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"Francis never displays in any authentic documents about him or his own writings anything except absolute submission, obedience to the hierarchy," he said.
"The stories about him humiliating prelates and so forth about not living poorly are stories that date to over 100 years after his death and come out of circles of radical Franciscans who have been excommunicated by the Pope and are against the hierarchy."
This article was originally published on CNA Oct. 4, 2016.
Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.