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Pope Francis and his mom had differing ideas on his college major

Regina Bergoglio and Pope Francis

HO | Bergoglio Family | AFP

Gelsomino Del Guercio - published on 06/08/21

What began as Mrs. Bergoglio's delight turned to a bit of disappointment.

As a young man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio promised his mother that he’d become a doctor. When his mother, Regina, realized that he wasn’t studying medicine, but theology, she accused him of having lied to her. He replied, “I didn’t lie; I’m studying medicine, but for souls,” AdnKronos writes.

“I’ll study medicine”

Emanuela Pizziolo recounts in the book “Papa Francesco, la forza dell’umiltà” (Pope Francis, the strength of humility) that the future pontiff, at the age of 19, right after graduation, told his mother that he wanted to continue his studies. “What good news, son!” his mother exclaimed.

“And what do you want to study?”

“Medicine,” replied Jorge. The family was enthusiastic about the young man’s choice; the whole family had been hoping to hear him say he would enroll in the university.

Jorge’s room

Regina, we read in Pizziolo’s book, thought that a young man who had to study medicine couldn’t do it in a house crowded with brothers and sisters and full of noise at all hours of the day.

So she decided to prepare a “study” just for him, upgrading a closet for that purpose. Jorge began to spend his days in that little room.

A mother’s pride

“My son will become a great doctor,” Regina assured her neighbors and anyone else who’d listen to her words, full of pride for her eldest son. “Sometimes he even forgets to eat, taken as he is by his books.”

Meanwhile, Jorge had assured his mother that he would take care of cleaning the little space.

Jorge Bergoglio’s mother makes a discovery

One afternoon in 1957, however, Regina decided that her son was too busy studying to find time to think about cleaning. So, taking advantage of a moment when he was absent, she entered the room armed with rags and a mop.

But she immediately understood, we read in Pizziolo’s book, that things didn’t line up. Instead of medical books, she found an impressive amount of theology and philosophy texts. The woman left the room with trembling hands and headed for the kitchen.

Medicine for souls

A short time later Jorge arrived home. Regina called to him and said, “Jorge … you told me you were studying medicine,” struggling to hold back tears. “Yes, Mom,” he replied. “Why did you lie to me?” Regina rebuked him. “No, Mother, I am studying medicine–for souls!”

His mother was disappointed: For an immigrant family like theirs, having a doctor for a son would’ve been a social status and a bit of security.

But Jorge had struggled against God’s call for two years, and the more he tried to escape what he now knew was his destiny, the more inevitable became the need to give himself completely to the Lord.

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