Last Wednesday, 48 Providence College students participated in one of Rome’s most meaningful spiritual activities: the Papal Audience. To judge by the numbers on the tickets, we joined 20,000 Catholic and non-Catholics at St. Peter’s Square, between Bernini’s grand 284 columns, under some 140 statues of Saints, and in front of the most significant building in Christendom. There they saw in person Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who in March 2013 became the 266th Pope, Francis I, the Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of Vatican City, the Vicar of Christ on Earth.
Papal Audiences are the traditionally given each week on Wednesdays to provide an opportunity for the faithful to not only see the Holy Father, but also to receive the Papal Blessing from the direct successor of St. Peter. The day starts with the Pope taking a tour of those gathered in his iconic so-called ‘Pope Mobile’.
The Audience then begins with a short reading from the New Testament in a number of languages: English, French, German, Italian, and Pope Francis’ native language of Spanish. The Pope offers a greeting in each of these languages, either personally or through a translator, signaling out some of the larger groups in attendance. And finally, in those several languages, the Pope offers a brief teaching.
“I am not usually a morning person, but on the day of the Papal audience it was easy to be. I was immediately woken up to women in wedding dresses and people from all over the world quickly walking towards the Vatican. We all shared one thing in common, and that was our excitement. We were filled with anticipation and hope that we would be lucky enough to have the Pope pass by us. Our wish was more than granted. I’ve never felt like I understood a different language more than I did while listening to Pope Francis speak. I couldn’t interpret it, but I still felt like I knew what he was saying. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go home and tell people about it.” –Jaime Warren
The first Jesuit Pope, and the first Pope from South America, Francis chose his name in homage to Saint Francis of Assisi. And like his namesake, Pope Francis focused his message upon the social teaching of the church. The message on Wednesday mainly concerned the nature of hope, or ‘speranza’. Where there is God’s love, there is always hope. And where there is hope, there is always the possibility of human redemption. Hope is what leads immigrants to search for a better life. And hope in our futures and our children’s futures is what should lead us to care for our natural environment. Hope is accordingly among our greatest gifts, which we should endeavor to cultivate among our neighbors throughout the world, with special concern for the poor and dispossessed.
Many of our students grabbed a prime place along the rail to view the Holy Father as he processed down a main aisle. Although his car did not stop, he did acknowledge several PC students as he was driven by, offering us the Sign of the Cross in blessing.
“Attending the Papal Audience was one of my most memorable experiences from my semester abroad thus far. Seeing Pope Francis ride through St. Peter’s square waving and smiling to people from all over the world was amazing! I loved that I was able to share this experience with other students from PC, it is truly something I will never forget!” — Kathryn Rosseel
Two students, Olivia Ferri and Michael Splann, even brought ‘Zucchetti’ to the Audience. These small hats worn by Cardinals and Popes are endearingly nicknamed such due to their alleged resemblance to a ‘zucca’ or pumpkin. The students had purchased them from none other than the famous “Ditta Annibale Gammarelli,” who have provided ecclesial clothing for Popes since Pope Pius VI in 1798 .
But with all the fun and excitement of this festival-like environment, we are reminded what it means to be Catholic. We are Providence College students and faculty, we are Friar Basketball fans, we are finance majors and history buffs and aspiring doctors and lawyers — we are a collection of individuals who work toward our individual goals and individual interests. But as Catholics, we are also members of a universal family: the Church. It is a church that knows no national borders and no divisions among those of different races, genders, or legal status: all are called to be united in the life of Christ. Joined by some 20,000 other human beings in this holy space — praying together in dozens of languages with Christians from dozens of countries — reminds of of who we are and what we really ought to be hopeful for.
Pope Francis’ message of ‘speranza’ is a hope for the peaceful unity of the entire human family.
Last Wednesday, 48 Providence College students participated in one of Rome’s most meaningful spiritual activities: the Papal Audience. To judge by the numbers on the tickets, we joined 20,000 Catholic and non-Catholics at St. Peter’s Square, between Bernini’s grand 284 columns, under some 140 statues of Saints, and in front of the most significant building […]MORE
On Saturday, September 7th, Pope Francis invited the world to pray for peace. His focus was on Syria, of course, but also included the Middle east and other places of conflict. The day of prayer and fasting ended with a four hour prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square. Among the estimated 100,00 participants, there was a delegation of Providence College students from the PC/ CEA Rome Study Abroad Program.
One PC student, Joseph Day (’15), was even interviewed by the international agency, Catholic News Service:
“A gathering called by the pope is also more potent than a locally-organized demonstration in a city center, said Joseph Day, a student from Rehoboth, Mass., studying in Rome.
The pope is “the leader of more than 1 billion Catholics who live in all nations, including those wanting to go to war. They will have an effect on people in those countries and I hope and think they will have an effect on politicians, too,” said Day, who was sporting a grey T-shirt emblazoned with “Pope Benedict XVI” on the back — a souvenir from the retired pope’s 2008 visit to the United States.
“Prayer is very powerful, it can do all things,” he said. If God is there when just two or three people gather together in his name, then having thousands in Rome and thousands more worldwide gathering in his name “will make a very effective prayer,” he said.
In his Homily, Pope Francis said that war is always a defeat for humanity. Instead, he urged the path of forgiveness, dialogue, and reconciliation.
“May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: “No more one against the other, no more, never! … war never again, never again war!” (Address to the United Nations, 1965). “Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love” (World Day of Peace Message, 1975). Brothers and Sisters, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! So may it be.” – Homily Sept. 7th.
Lauren Janik (’15) also attended the Vigil and offered these reflections :
“On Saturday, I joined Pope Francis, tens of thousands of people in St.
Peter’s Square, and hundreds of thousands around the would in praying for
peace, especially in Syria and the Middle East. The peace Pope Francis
spoke of is not a fluffy happy feeling that we hope will radiate from the
square. It is a concrete peace – one that must start in each of our hearts,
then in our families, then among those we interact with every day. Only
then can we expect to have peace in the world. The vigil stood as a
witness and testament to this peace, as well as another concrete way of
achieving it – through prayer. Pope Francis led us in asking Mary, Queen
of Peace, for her intercession and praying the Rosary. He gave an
address, and then joined in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Office of
Readings, and led Benediction.”
Zachary Keefe (’15) expressed his experience at the Vigil in this way:
“It was simply a wonderful occasion to hear the words of Pope Francis for peace in Syria. Gathered in St. Peter’s Square, you gained a sense of the power of prayer and assembly for a just cause. By the end of the Vigil, I left hoping that Syria heard our prayers and can resolve its civil war quickly and peacefully.”
On Saturday, September 7th, Pope Francis invited the world to pray for peace. His focus was on Syria, of course, but also included the Middle east and other places of conflict. The day of prayer and fasting ended with a four hour prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square. Among the estimated 100,00 participants, there was […]MORE