a new face in rome

Greetings to all! I apologize (yet again!) for the long lapse in blog posts. I just came back from the annual meetings of our Marianist Lay Communities international leadership team and the World Council of the Marianist Family. As with most meetings, last minute preparations made for a harried two weeks before departure, and the return home left me with a long list of tasks in hand.

This was my fourteenth visit to the Eternal City! I’m still gob-smacked by it’s beauty and the richness of culture and history, but some of the shine is gone. Perhaps it’s because I associate Rome with a marathon of tri-lingual meetings while battling the bone-jarring fatigue of jet-lag. When we do have time to wander through it’s streets, my mind is numb and my body is dragging. There is a sense of “seen it”…”done it”… “already bought that T-shirt”.

This year, it was different. There was a new man in town. His smiling face shone from posters plastered in souvenir shop windows and bobble-head dolls wobbling on tacky souvenir stands. Rome was having a love affair with Papa Francesco, and we had a date to see him.

We attended the papal mass celebrating World Family Day at the close of the 21st Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family. It wasn’t a small, intimate affair. We joined 100,000 other souls who poured into St. Peter’s Square and down the Via della Conciliazione. We arrived early – really early. We were in our seats by 7:30 am for the 10:30 mass, but we had a prime spot by the barricades with hopes of getting a good glimpse of the papal drive-by. And, I did…check out the video. A mere couple of seconds of iPhone footage shows his warmth and exuberance.

I’m not usually one to get in a tizzy over meeting a celebrity. I’m uncomfortable with a certain cult of personality that swoons in the presence of greatness. But, I must confess that seeing Pope Francis in person was a true joy. Amid the massive grandeur of statuary and columns surrounding St. Peter’s, true holiness seemed to shine through a simple man; a man who reflects a genuine love for those he serves.