Grace and peace to you,
It’s been a whirlwind of a week in a beautiful way, far beyond what we could’ve anticipated. Sunday we went to St. Peter’s for the Papal Epiphany Mass. When we arrived a guard looked at our ticket and asked, ‘are you vesting for communion?’ We said no. He clarified, ‘…but you are deacons from America?’ We said yes. The guard left with our ticket and then waved us to the back where we were informed that we would be vesting and assisting with distribution of communion to the Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests. We were led to our seats and were seated right behind the main altar for Mass. It didn’t sink in until later that day that we were able to serve as Deacons with our Holy Father. The Lord’s providence is generous and surprising.
The following day we had mass at the altar near the bones of St. Peter, praying with the first Pope after having mass with the current Pontiff the day prior. That day we also met with Fr. Josh Ehli at the Propaganda Fidei, which is the office that works with the various mission territories of the world. Father spoke from a place of hope concerning the work being done to evangelize and set roots in new countries. He was a joyful example to us, reminding us of the generous love of the Church as Mother. He closed the tour by welcoming us to pray in the chapels both where Blessed John Henry Newman was ordained, and where he said his first mass. We also had the opportunity to pray before a habit of St. Therese of Lisieux, patroness of the missions. Following lunch we were visited by Fr. Luke Sweeney who works with the Congregation of Bishops. He shared with us the structure of the Church and answered questions about the process of naming new bishops.
We had the honor of having Mass at the altar of St. Pope John Paul II to begin our Tuesday. Following Mass we journeyed to visit the Missionaries of Charity. One of the Sisters who has been an MC for 58 years shared the story of the founding of the community as well as other stories about Mother Teresa. She led us to stop in to pray in the room that Mother Teresa would stay, that had been preserved. Sister was strong willed, and yet simultaneously gentle. She echoed the love of all human beings, especially those most in need–and asked us to join their mission in prayer. Following the MC’s we were able to visit the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Oxley reiterated the love of the Church, as Fr. Ehli had done. Both men gave witness to a unique part of the loving action of the Church for souls. Fr. Oxley inspired us to strive to protect the sweetness of faith and morals handed down to us.
Wednesday. Wednesday was a great day. We left for the Wednesday Audience with Pope Francis. As far as we knew we were there with thousands of our closest friends to hear a reflection from Pope Francis. We did do that, but afterwards a guard came to our group and said, ‘photo with Pope Francis?’ and so our group began to walk about toward the stage where the address had been given. We gathered for a photo and watched the Holy Father greet the sick, the newlyweds, and another large group of seminarians. The Holy Father then came up to our group and spoke with Fr. Carl in Italian briefly. He then asked us to pray for Him. In hearing that our JTerm course was on the missionary activity of the Church Pope Francis told us to, “Go ahead!” He then paused and took the photo below with our group. This was the second time in a week that the Lord’s generous providence brought us close to the Visible Head of the Church. We are truly a family, and it was an honor this week to spend time with our Holy Father.
I’ll share more about the rest of this week soon, including some awesome photos from on top of the North American College. But for now, I just want to pause for a time of gratitude. Recognizing the Hand of God working so intimately in our lives. We had some incredible manifestations of His Hand at work this week…But in trust I can say the same for each of you. I pray that we are given the eyes to see today how loved we are every moment of every day. He doesn’t leave His children abandoned.
Deacon Bobby Blood