It was 5:30 in the morning when Cenacolo once again arrived in Rome; not much time had passed since the last audience of Pope Benedict, but how could we have missed the Inaugural Holy Mass of Pope Francis—on St. Joseph’s Day! Here we were again in the capital: brothers and sisters guided by don Stefano and our friend from Manta, don Beppe.
The sky was still dark, and it was cold; we had traveled all night, but the excitement of the people awaiting the opening of the gates with us helped us forget our tiredness. Little by little we entered into the square, and the “embrace” of the columns of St. Peter’s welcomed us. We took our places in the square and began to raise our colored “hands,” pray the rosary, and sing songs while doing “gesti,” the Community dances. While the sun was rising in the blue sky, we warmed our hearts and our spirits as we awaited the arrival of Pope Francis.
Upon his arrival we welcomed him with shouts of joy as we waved our colored hands and bandanas. We felt close to him thanks to his serene and tender way of encountering people--above all children and the sick—and his choice of a “Pope mobile” without protective glass. After the joy of this moment, we entered into an attentive silence with the rest of those present. While praying together with the Patriarchs of the Eastern Church at St. Peter’s tomb, we followed the Pope on the big-screen; we saw that he was given two “symbols”: the “pallia papale,” a white stoll covered in crosses marked with three buttons--a symbol of the passion of Christ. The other was the “ring of the fisherman”--Peter’s seal representing Jesus giving him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Then began the true celebration. Lots of other young people, consecrated, families and children from all over the world, like us, desired to seriously and openly participate in this particularly grace-filled, historic event. After the reading of the Gospel, we awaited the words of the Pope. “Protect, protect, protect.” This echoed in our hearts until the end of the homily. Pope Francis, speaking about the figure of St. Joseph, the protector of the Holy Family and the Church, explained in a touchingly simple way the importance of “protecting” oneself, the people around us, and the creation—but also to protect the most poor as well as our own personal gifts. He spoke of humility and of St. Joseph’s spirit of service and told us that “service” is the only thing that makes us truly great—translated with the words of Mother Elvira: “Serving is reigning!” He also said, “We must not fear goodness and tenderness,” while speaking of how St. Joseph was a strong man who was capable of living gestures of tenderness and goodness. Today those same gestures can render our skies less gray.
When the Mass was finished, everyone, having been reinvigorated by the smile and words of Pope Francis, sang and danced for joy and for the people close to us that were touched by our freedom. Then we went into St. Peter’s Basilica where we were able to live some intense moments of prayer on the tombs of both John Paul II and St. Peter.
At 3:00 we arrived in time for the Divine Mercy Chaplet in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia, a church desired by Blessed John Paul II. Afterwards we prayed a walking rosary under the columns of St. Peter’s Square while the sun was setting behind the clouds; then, to end it all, we had Mass in the Church of Divine Mercy. A statue of St. Joseph, decorated with flowers, was placed next to the altar. Father Stefano offered the Mass for all our fathers on their fest day and shared how the Pope is the “father” of the whole Church. The impression that Pope Francis gave us was exactly like that of a thoughtful father who protects his children.
We played our last song—the song of St. Francis—and sang, “Francis go, repair my house, Francis go, can’t you see it’s ruined?” Then away we went, returning to the vans. A long return voyage to Saluzzo was awaiting us, but there was a lot of joy in our hearts. It was worth it!
Thank you, St. Joseph, and thank you, Pope Francis!
While waiting for the Pope to pass after we had arrived in St. Peter’s Square, we decided to not “squish” ourselves in the crowd just to see him up close. Instead, we sat in a circle a little bit in the back so that we could pray a rosary and live this moment of faith together. I saw that while we were praying and singing, the people around us began to pray with us, as if they were attracted to the prayer. In this moment I understood that we were also there for another reason—to give, not just receive--to be a testimony, a presence of light, prayer, and joy for the others. This giving to the others also filled me up and made me live that moment more profoundly and more joyously. The Pope’s invitation to be “protectors of the gifts of God” made me reflect on the responsibility that I have to “bring out” the gifts that the Lord has given me, to use and protect them for my well-being as well as the well-being of others. I saw the Pope as a good and caring father who cares for each one of us through his words. He made me feel that I belong to a large family and that I am a “living rock.” For this I have the responsibility to walk and be active with what and how I am. Thank you, Holy Father!
I feel in my heart that this pilgrimage to Rome was a gift given by St. Joseph and by my father, Silvio, who a few months ago passed away.
In fact, last year I was in Lourdes with my family as we thanked the Virgin Mary for the help and the graces we have received in these years of walking in the faith. They were very beautiful days; and, upon reflecting on them again, ultimately, while I was there, I was praying, “Papa, how I would like to make at least one more pilgrimage together!” During Pope Francis’ Holy Mass I experienced a light: seeing the tenderness and goodness of our Holy Father, listening to his simple and concrete words, seeing him as human, humble and attentive to everything and everyone, I thanked Jesus, telling him, “Thank you, Lord, because today, St. Joseph’s Day and the fest of all fathers, I feel in my heart that the Pope is truly the father of everyone and that the Pope is also my father. Thank you because I wish him well and because I can listen to him, see him, and pray with him!”
Thank you, Jesus, for the gift and the privilege to be Christian Catholic and for the joy of belonging to the family of the Church; I pray to You for all those who have not yet encountered the Love of God and have not yet experienced the loving embrace of the Father.
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