During the night of Friday, May 17th, as a mix of guys, girls, and consecrated brothers and sisters, we traveled in a bus to Rome to respond to the Pope’s invitation to the Community and the new Movements of the Church in this time of Pentecost. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had already desired and planned this day, and Pope Francis wanted to welcome this appointment that is so special to us in the Year of Faith.
We arrived in the morning, welcomed by the vast Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, where we celebrated the Eucharist together in a side chapel. During his homily, Don Stefano described the beginnings of the Community, how it was born from the drive of the Holy Spirit, thanks to the obedience and humility of Mother Elvira. He also reminded us that we are part of the Church, along with many other new Communities, and that also they were born with different charismas under the same drive of the Holy Spirit. In the Basilica we also stopped to pray the Creed in front of St. Paul’s tomb.
From there we went to St. Peter’s Basilica where we were able to pray on his tomb as well, the place of his martyrdom; we also professed and confirmed our faith there. It was nice to be able to stop in these historic places and feel a part of the history of the Church by choosing to give our lives everyday, like St. Peter and St. Paul did.
After lunch we prayed a walking rosary, directing ourselves once again toward St. Peter’s, to get in line in order to get into the square. When we arrived, around 2 o’clock, the streets were already full of groups and communities that were also in line. We joyfully sang and prayed under the beating sun, and then there was even a black cloud or two with a little bit of rain; but the sun won out and, therefore, the weather that accompanied us was beautiful.
Finally, around 5 o’clock, we managed to get a place in St. Peter’s Square. The whole Universal Church was re-united, represented by numerous groups, movements, and communities that came from all around the world. Songs and testimonies that prepared everyone for the vigil livened the atmosphere in the square; then, after an applause from the crowd, we saw that Pope Francis had begun to ride around in the square. Some of us were able to see him up close and some of us from a little further away, but we were all happy to have encountered him.
When he went up to his seat and before he began to speak to us, we were able to listen to very touching testimonies from Christians that try to live their faith in their different work atmospheres and contexts of life, especially in those that are very difficult; like, for example, a Pakistani doctor that gave up his life in order to testify the Gospel, his brother already having been a martyr of the faith in that troubled and conflicted land. Then some men and women asked the Pope very concrete questions, and he listened to them with much attention and interest. In the end we were able to hear the responses directly from him.
At the beginning the Holy Father shared with candor, truth, and sympathy that he already knew the questions because that had already been given to him the day before, and he said, “First the truth!” Then he fraternally corrected us by saying that in the square that he heard only his name, “Pope Francis;” but instead, he wanted to hear the name of Jesus to be shouted out, “Jesus is the Lord!”, thus inviting us to give Him the first place. Then he simply spoke to us, sharing his experience of faith, from when he was a child and his grandmother explained that Jesus died on Good Friday, but that two days later He was alive again because He was resurrected - the faith is a personal encounter with Jesus, nothing else… We are not “non-governmental organizations” that search for a result or efficiency, or a political organization…What doesn’t work in the world today is not the banks that crumble or the economic crisis or the lack of work or cultural problems. It is man that is in crisis, that is sick… But us, all men, we are the image of God, whatever may be our religion or culture; and for this we must encounter Him personally in the prayer, letting ourselves be transformed by Him in order to testify to His presence and help the poor… You don’t need lots of words and studying theology isn’t enough: the saints lived the Gospel concretely so as to have reformed the Church because they lived a personal encounter with Jesus, they made Him part of their concrete life as Teacher and Lord; and with their life they transmitted Him to the poor… With these and other simple, yet profound thoughts, the Pope invited us to not remain closed in ourselves, but to open ourselves up - because what sense does it have if we have welcomed Jesus in our life and have not let Him come out so that the others can also encounter Him?
The Holy Father said many powerful things like this to us, and we would never have been tired of listening to him; but, instead, at the end he apologized for having spoken too much!
At the end of the concluding prayers and songs, Pope Francis gave us his blessing of the Lord, after which we began to say our good-byes with festive, grateful enthusiasm. Yes, we truly can say, “It was a “most-blessed” day! May Jesus Christ truly be the Lord of our life!
Words of Holy Father Francis…