Notes from Rome
On Sunday, April 21, I had the privilege of concelebrating the Holy Mass at the Pontifical North American College, the residence for the 250 seminarians, mostly from the United States, who are studying in Rome.
Afterward, I made my way over to the Piazza of St. Peter's Basilica to try to catch the Holy Father's Regina Coeli address. Although I was there 20 minutes early, and unlike previous weeks was able to get in past the gates, it was still so crowded that I had to remain among the columns surrounding the piazza. I could only see the Holy Father at his window by peering between a couple of columns. The columns also affected the acoustics so that, unfortunately, I could not fully understand what the Holy Father was saying. Nevertheless, it was a blessing to be present and to see so many people gathered for the audience.
Near the end of his address, I could tell that the Holy Father presented a question to all who were gathered in the Piazza. Because of the acoustics, I couldn't quite catch it, but what I heard immediately from the audience was an enthusiastic "Yes!" Then, he asked another question. Again, I couldn't make out what he was saying, but still another even more enthusiastic "Yes!" went up from the crowd, seemingly from the many young people present.
This exchange left me wondering what our Holy Father had asked. So, a few days later, I found the English translation of his address. It turns out that that particular day was Good Shepherd Sunday. And the Pope was speaking about the Gospel reading from the Mass that presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The Church points to the image of the Good Shepherd as a model for priestly service.
Given that context, here is the portion of the text of the Holy Father's address (provided by the Vatican Information Service). I'm adding in the "Yes" responses from the young people in the audience to give a more complete understanding of what took place in the piazza that day:
"Today there are many young persons in the piazza," the Pontiff observed. "I want to ask you, has there been a time when you have heard the Lord's voice, who through a desire, a restlessness, has invited you to follow Him more closely?"
"Yes!" the young people responded.
"Youth needs to put its high ideals into action. Have you thought of this?"
"Yes!" they shouted.
"Ask Jesus what He wants of you and be courageous!"
The Holy Father concluded his address by referring to Our Lady: "And let us call upon the intercession of Mary, who is the woman of the 'Yes'. She said 'Yes' her entire life. She learned to recognize Jesus' voice from when she carried Him in her womb. May Mary, our Mother, help us to always know better Jesus' voice and to follow it, to walk in the path of life."
Seeing this exchange in its entirety, I am filled with great hope for the future of the Church and the future of the holy priesthood. May our Lord through the intercession of Our Lady continue to bless the entire Church with holy vocations and inspire the hearts of all the faithful in every walk of life to answer the call of Jesus the Good Shepherd with a firm and generous "Yes!"
Father Jim McCormack, MIC, lives in Rome, Italy, where he is pursuing a Licentiate degree in the Consecrated Life.