In an interview with CNA, Brother Rausch, who joined the Jesuits in 1977, explained that he wrote a letter thanking the Pope – who was then known as Father Jorge Bergoglio – for his service as provincial of Argentina for over six years.
Four days letter, in December 1979, he received a reply from then-Fr. Bergoglio.
“Your letter of December 8 is one of gratitude, and being thankful is a virtue that St. Ignatius wanted for his Jesuits,” the future Pope told him.
“To know how to thank one’s superiors and brothers is a sign that one’s heart is grateful to God our Lord, and a grateful heart is always a source of grace for the entire body of the Society and the Church.”
The provincial encouraged Brother Rausch to “thank the Lord for so many graces he has given you – your family, your vocation, the novitiate, your piety, your virtues.”
He also encouraged gratitude for the witness of the saints and the members of his community.
“And finally, offer many prayers of thanksgiving, that the Lord will help you to always be good.”
Brother Rausch said he still has the letter, now more than 30 years old, and takes good care of it.
He explained that then-Father Bergoglio not only answered his letter, but would also call him on his birthday. This year was no exception, as he received a phone call from Pope Francis on March 23.
“The Pope called me to say hello just as he has on that day for many years. He did these kind things because he was very close with many people,” the Jesuit brother said.
His secretary, Raquel Beterette, became very emotional when she picked up the phone and recognized the Pope’s voice.
“She transferred the call to me right when I was working in my bookbinding workshop, and she told me very surprisingly, ‘The Pope is calling you!’” Brother Rausch said.
“‘Happy Birthday,’ he said to me. And I said, ‘How are you Jorge? Well, now Francis.’ He likes people to call him Jorge, as always.”
“He sounded happy and in the mood for jokes,” the Jesuit brother recalled. “We didn’t talk for long because it was a long distance call and I tried to be brief, because while he is very thoughtful, he is also very austere, so the conversation was short.”
Brother Rausch said he was not surprised that Cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope.
The news of his election brought great joy, he said, as Pope Francis is “good teacher, father, brother and now friend.”