Making time for others: The Pope’s way

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Pope Francis sends a 'thank you' note to a priest he has never met, reminding the priest that 'no one is too busy to do an act of kindness'

FROM THE POPE. Fr James Martin gets a handwritten 'thank you' note from Pope Francis. Photo courtesy of Fr James Martin

MANILA, Philippines – Fr James Martin, a well-known Jesuit author in the United States, got a surprising letter from the Vatican embassy in Washington DC last Friday, July 19.

It was a handwritten note from Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pontiff whom Martin has never met. Francis sent this after Martin, through a common friend, gave him 3 of his books a few weeks ago. 

“I don’t want to share the contents of the note itself, but it was very gracious and exceedingly thoughtful, and I’m very grateful that he would send a handwritten note for such a small gift. It’s signed ‘Franciscus,’” Martin wrote.

Martin said the experience teaches him to make time for others. He said he remembered “how stingy I can be with my own time.”

In a Facebook message to Rappler, Martin said: “It reminds us that no one is too busy to do an act of kindness. The Pope, probably one of the busiest people in the world, took time out of his day (or night) to send a handwritten note to someone whom he has never even met. His act made me want to be more generous in my own life with my time.”

SIMPLE ACT. 'By the way, you'll see that the Pope even took the time to neatly address the envelope,' Fr James Martin says. Photo courtesy of Fr James Martin

‘Everyone is important’

Martin also said the experience provides “a nice image of God.”

The Jesuit explained: “Remember God comes to a poor woman in a poor town in Galilee to ask her to bear his Son. In other words, God cares for us even if we think we are insignificant or unimportant – because everyone is important in God’s eyes!”

Leandro Martins, a non-Catholic biker from Brazil, shared a similar experience in a blog entry that he shared with Rappler. Martins recalled how the Pope, whom he, too, has never encountered, invited him into his guesthouse after Martins requested a meeting. (READ: ‘Yes, I was going to meet the Pope!’)

Martins said he knew the Pope is “very busy,” but Francis – who has consistently denounced a self-centered Catholic Church – took time to pose for pictures, check out Martins’ bike, and sign his Brazilian flag.

POPE'S AUTOGRAPH. Leandro Martins gets Pope Francis to sign his Brazilian flag. Photo courtesy of Leandro Martins

Martin, the Jesuit author, said Francis shows “a life centered on God is a life centered on generosity.”

In his evening reflection the day he got the note, Martin said: “If the Pope can find time to be kind to others, if he can pause to say thank you, if he can take a moment make someone feel appreciated, then so can I. So can we.” –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email