(CNS Photo Paul Haring)
“I ask a favor of you: Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.”
—Pope Francis on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square on March 13, 2013
Six months ago on this date Catholics and good people all over the world were hoping and praying that the College of Cardinals would soon elect our new Holy Father. Each morning from the time of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s historic announcement on February 11 through the days of the conclave I gave a update to our John Carroll community during our opening morning prayer. I was able to update them on what was happening at the Vatican and what had transpired overnight. Twitter and Vatican Radio were my best friends, and I woke up extra-early each day to share the news and excitement as another chapter in Church History was being written in Rome.
On this particularly date I spoke to our students and faculty about what would happen when the new Holy Father was elected: from the white smoke to the choosing of the new name, donning the papal robes, private prayer in the Chapel before the balcony presentation to the Church and to the world. I kept vigil with millions of people online that day as the seagulls flew over St. Peter’s Square and landed often on the chimney like a sign from Heaven that this indeed was the Big Day.
In my 33 years of service here at John Carroll, there have only been two papal transitions: Pope Benedict’s election in 2005, and his “retirement” and the election of Pope Francis this year. I have been blessed to twice make the “Habemus Papem” announcement to our school community. It was not a surprise in 2005 when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected and announced as Pope Benedict XVI: He was a leading choice among the “papabile” and his name was easily recognizable in Latin during the great announcement.
Six months ago we were near the end of the school day when the white smoke made its appearance over St. Peter’s Square and I was able to announce to the school that an election had indeed been made and the new Holy Father would soon be introduced to the world. Many of our teachers were able to tune in to EWTN coverage online and witness the jubilation of the crowds and the commentators as we awaited the first glimpse of the new Holy Father.
As our dismissal bell rang at 2:40 p.m., many students and faculty members scattered to practices, games, and after-school activities, while many others gathered in my office and in various locations throughout our building for the announcement of the new Holy Father. I was filled with such joy and excitement. It gives me a chill as I sit here in my office now, reliving the memories as I type this refection.
The announcement in Latin of the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio was not as easy to recognize, and the commentators on EWTN and Twitter reports were most helpful. To learn that the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, a Jesuit, had been elected and had taken the name of Francis was exhilarating!! I was glued to the celebrations online and mesmerized by the appearance of this new Holy Father in his simple white robes who paused to ask the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square and watching throughout the world to pray for him. What an amazing introduction!!
Pope Francis on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square after his election on March 13, 2013 (Photo CNS Paul Haring)
Over the past six months there have been so many occasions and papal moments that have brought a smile to my face. Pope Francis has brought joy to my heart and the hearts of people, Catholic and not, all over the world as he breaks through the barriers of both security and papal tradition to truly be a People’s Pope.
Just a few examples that come to my mind now:
· The personal greetings to every parishioner after Mass at the door of the Vatican’s Santa Ana Church on that first Sunday, March 17. Watch the beautiful video here:
March 17, 2013 (Photo CNS Paul Haring)
· Jumping off the popemobile countless times to kiss the heads of the sick and disabled in the crowds
The Holy Father embraces child prior to his first ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing, Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013 (Photo Franco Origlia/Getty Images News/Getty Images)
· The personal phone calls, the handwritten letters, the impromptu visits, the daily prayer in the back of the Domus Sanctae Marthae before morning Mass…
March 22, 1013 (Photo CNS-L’Osservatore Romano)
· Sharing the joy and energy of millions of young people from around the world at World Youth Day in Rio
Awaiting the arrival of the Holy Father on the Copacabana Beach at World Youth Day, July 27, 2013 (Photo AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
· The emphasis on caring for the poor and those in need, not being materialistic
· Washing the feet of the young inmates on Holy Thursday at Casal del Marmo, the youth detention center in Rome
Holy Thursday, March 28, 2013 (Photo EPA)
· Being Spontaneous: How about this week’s venture out without security in the vintage 1984 Renault 4 with 186,000 miles donated to the Holy Father by Father Renzo Zocca of Verona? This is a story not to be missed, read it here.
September 10, 2013 (Photo CNS-L’Osservatore Romano via Catholic Press Photo)
Our Holy Father has displayed a wonderful spirit of smiles and kindness, a simple humility that most people find refreshing, along with the challenging messages of ‘walking the walk,’ not just ‘talking the talk,’ when it comes to faith in Christ, forgiveness, treatment of the poor, and living the Gospel message each and every day.
If you would like to keep up with Vatican updates, I have a few suggestions listed below. All of these news agencies have excellent updates via their websites, as well as Facebook and Twitter.
1. The Catholic Review: Follow the Holy Father with updates from our great local staff here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore
2. Vatican News
5. Rome Reports: Includes video links to all the latest news
I continue each day to be excited about this pontificate and pray that our loving God will bless Pope Francis with good health and stamina to meet the needs of the Church in the years to come. We opened school this morning with the prayer below to remember the intentions of our Holy Father on this six-month anniversary. Viva il Papa!!
O God, shepherd and ruler of all the faithful,
look favorably on your servant Francis,
whom you have set at the head of your Church as her shepherd;
Grant, we pray, that by word and example
he may be of service to those over whom he presides
so that, together with the flock entrusted to his care,
he may come to everlasting life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the
unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.