Forty seminarians made a pilgrimage to see Pope Francis in Washington, DC. On the way to Washington, I read the Pope’s biography and learned this was his first trip to America. Think of it, instead of us going to see the Pope in Rome, the Pope was actually coming to see us here in the U.S.! His biography related many similarities to some of our influences; he was a cardinal like Cardinal O’Malley, a bishop like Bishop Uglietto, a seminary rector like Father Palardy, a spiritual director like Father Murphy, and a teacher before becoming a priest. The Pope was 33 years old when he was ordained, not unusual for Jesuits, and like many of us he was 50 years old when he went back to school full time for his doctorate. That gives us a greater appreciation for what happens right here at Pope St. John XXIII. One of the continuous themes of his ministry throughout his life was, “that Jesus is not locked up in the sacristy”. Priests and everyone in the church are to take Jesus out to the people: to the poor, to those in material need and spiritual need.
The Mass was outside on the steps of the Basilica, and inside were 6,000 seminarians and religious from all over the country. When the Pope entered to give us a blessing before the Mass the entire assembly became silent. The respect and awe shared by everyone were astonishing. It was a special moment and we traveled home energized about taking Jesus Christ from the church to the people.