Holy, holy, holy: Pope talks about his favorite saints

VATICAN CITY -- Who are the holy men and women Pope Francis looks up to? He revealed many of them in two recently published interviews.

Here, in no exact order, are the saints Pope Francis has a particular fondness for or credits with playing an important role in his religious formation. The names are taken from the La Repubblica interview; the Sept. 19 interview with the Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica; and a 2010 book-length compilation of interviews with Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti, titled "Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio."

-- St. Augustine: This fifth-century Church father and theologian is a favorite of retired Pope Benedict XVI and for his successor. In a talk on the saint's feast day Aug. 28, Pope Francis said Christians must follow St. Augustine's example and refuse to become "anesthetized by success, by things, by power," but let themselves be restless for God.

-- St. Francis of Assisi: The pope took his name after this 13th-century Italian friar: "He's great because he is everything. He is a man who wants to do things, wants to build, he founded an order and its rules, he is an itinerant and a missionary, a poet and a prophet, he is mystical. ... He loved nature, animals, the blade of grass on the lawn and the birds flying in the sky. But above all he loved people, children, old people, women. He is the most shining example of that agape," that is, to love one another as Jesus loved, the pope said.

-- St. Paul the Apostle: "St. Paul is the one who laid down the cornerstones of our religion and our creed. You cannot be a conscious Christian without St. Paul. He translated the teachings of Christ into a doctrinal structure that, even with the additions of a vast number of thinkers, theologians and pastors, has resisted and still exists after two thousand years," he said.

-- St. Ignatius of Loyola, the 16th-century founder of the order the pope comes from, the Society of Jesus: "Jesuits were and still are the leavening -- not the only one but perhaps the most effective -- of Catholicism: culture, teaching, missionary work, loyalty to the pope." Ignatius, he said, "was a reformer and a mystic," which is critical for the Church because "a religion without mystics is a philosophy."

-- St. Benedict: This sixth-century Italian monk is most famous for his rule for living, working and praying in community, which still guides the lives of Benedictine abbeys around the world.

-- St. Thomas Aquinas: This 13th-century Dominican theologian and philosopher taught that pride is humanity's greatest enemy because it leads a person to believe he or she is self-sufficient and hinders the person from having a relationship with God.

-- St. Joseph: The pope keeps in his room a statue of St. Joseph sleeping, and he has a symbol of St. Joseph -- the spikenard flower -- on his papal coat of arms.

-- St. Therese of Lisieux: The pope used to keep a photo of this 19th-century French Carmelite nun on a shelf in Buenos Aires. He said, "When I have a problem I ask the saint, not to solve it, but to take it in her hands and help me accept it, and, as a sign, I almost always receive a white rose."

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