Dear Parishioners: It’s good to be home! My pilgrimage to Rome was truly an enjoyable and inspirational time. I was able to offer Mass for you and your intentions at St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome during the week. Also last Saturday I had the great privilege to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi and on Sunday morning at the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. These were truly prayerful and faithful moments on this time of pilgrimage. The celebrant of the Mass at St. Peter’s was Cardinal William Levada who is the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His Eminence gave a truly inspirational homily to our group of State Catholic Conference Directors. It helped he served as the California Catholic Conference Director in the 1980s.
Our group was to granted special tickets to Pope Francis’ Wednesday Audience. We were seated very near the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Square. The Wednesday Audience was an incredible event. A Vatican Official informed us that they had given out 92,000 tickets for the audience that day and another 25,000 came without tickets! St. Peter’s Square was packed and we had to make our way there through the crowd. We left at 8:00AM in order to make it to the 10:00AM audience! Pilgrims from across the globe gathered to listen to Pope Francis warm welcome and inspirational message and to pray with our spiritual leader. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowd was truly contagious! Pope Francis spoke of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model of faith. As I listened to his profound message it certainly seemed a very providential theme for the Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy, a parish under Mary’s spiritual patronage.
The Holy Father went on to say: “How did Mary live this faith? She lived it out in the simplicity of the thousand daily tasks and worries of every mother, such as providing food, clothing, caring for the house. It was precisely Our Lady’s normal life which served as the basis for the unique relationship and profound dialogue which unfolded between her and God, between her and her Son. Mary’s “yes”, already perfect from the start, grew until the hour of the Cross.”
It was very apparent that Pope Francis was delighted by the crowd and at times responded with joy to the shouts of “Viva Il Papa!” After delivering his message, he greeted some of the assembled guests personally and then began to wade through the crowd to the handicapped pilgrims in the front row and then spent a considerable time greeting many of thousands of school children who were assembled throughout the crowd. It was a beautiful sunny day and was actually quite hot but it did not deter the crowd of over 100,000 pilgrims from singing, praying and shouting out. It made a Red Sox World Series Game look like a small pep rally!!!
While in Rome our group of State Catholic Conference Directors also met with various Vatican Officials to discuss Church-State Relations under Pope Francis. We met with Archbishop Muller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization and Monsignor Peter Wells, the Assessor for General Affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State. Monsignor Wells is a priest from Oklahoma and serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Pope Francis. His insights into the Holy Father were very interesting. He told us that Rome has not seen such large, usually 100,000 or more, and sustained crowds for the Papal Audience. He also noted that the lines for Confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica have dramatically increased due largely to Pope Francis’ message of mercy.
It was jam packed week on Pilgrimage but I am happy to be home. I thank Fr. Connors for his very capable leadership of the parish during my absence. I urge you to please pray for the dead during this All Souls Month. By the time you read this column the Red Sox will be World Champions! God Bless. Have a great week!!