Monday, April 29, 2013

More on Pope Francis

One of our practicum students this semester, Gonzalo Siller, has gathered more thoughts on the days prior to and the election of Pope Francis.  The accompanying photos are from the Mass celebrated for Pope Francis by the seminary community.  Readers may also find live footage from the day of the election here on the blog.  We have also published a report from Father Jeremy Driscoll about his experience of the election in Rome.

The Days of Waiting and the Election
Reflection by Gonzalo Siller; photos by Ivan Garcia

The community of Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary was with enthusiasm expecting the election of our new Pope.  Since the day the conclave was announced until the white smoke came from the Sistine Chapel, our eyes and hearts were directed to Rome as a sign of Catholic unity.

Many of our seminarians said this was their first time participating by prayers and actually hoping for our new Pontiff.  One of our seminarians who studies for the Diocese of Yakima, Andy Mendoza, described the event as an amazing experience.  Mendoza said that he reflected about the importance of the Pope, the bishop of Rome, as a sign of unity and bridge among Christians and even other religions.

While we were waiting with our hearts open to receive the blessings of the new pope, we were told by our President-Rector Monsignor Betschart that as soon as we heard the Abbey bells ringing, we were to gather together in the Damian Center and watch the live video from Rome and see as a community the new Pope from what perhaps is the most famous balcony.

A prayer card and music from the Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Francis

On March 13th one of my classmates got up after looking at his iPhone and with an excited look on his face told us that the while smoke finally had come out announcing the much expected Pope.  As soon as this happened, the Abbey bells were ringing, transmitting to us great joy and hope.  So we left the classroom and hurriedly went to meet the rest of the community.

I still remember the faces of many of us who were anxiously attentive to the big screen provided by the seminary and our technology department.  We were commenting, sharing our thoughts and hopes about his event.  Therefore, I did not hesitate to talk to another seminarian, Andres Emmanuelli.  He said that his mind and heart were filled with hope for the Pope, that he was living these days of intercessions, and he was going to keep praying.  He also mentioned that our Church needs a pastor who is close to his sheep, one who shows the merciful face of God to humanity.

The moment arrived, the cardinal announced it, the cross came out to the balcony, and after a few seconds, Pope Francis came out to meet God's flock that was waiting for his blessing.

For many of us, as soon as we saw the new Pope, our eyes were filled with tears.  While we were hearing his message to us, a deep silence was present, almost as if we were recording the event and were asked for total silence.  His words were full of hope and humility; he asked us to pray for our former Pope Benedict XVI, and at the same time Pope Francis, our new Pope, bowed down before Jesus' flock and asked our prayers before he granted to us his blessing.  What a deep sign, what an example of a pastor who recognizes that there is no pastor without the sheep.

Members of the schola for the Mass of Thanksgiving

Priests from the Abbey and seminary faculty during the Mass

Students prayed from the balcony and in the nave during the Mass.

Miguel Corral, a seminarian for the Diocese of Las Vegas, said he was as excited as anyone else about the new Pope.  He said, "I liked Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who taught us many things," but "God is guiding the Church and obviously knows what he is doing."  While our conversation about the papal election was taking place, he also mentioned that this new Pope is going to be wonderful.

Our new Pope is already a part of our community, which in Mount Angel Seminary is a constant sharing of our faith in a multicultural environment.  It is very easy to meet persons from all over the world; therefore, it is very easy and quick to get a worldwide perspective by asking some students what they think about our new Pope.  I asked Brother Leonel Varela, OCD, who said that he feels in communion with the college of cardinals, even though he does not know any of them, and he believes that the Holy Spirit has worked through them to give us a shepherd, Pope Francis.  Brother Leonel added that as soon as he heard the news about the new Pope, he ran towards the Damian Center to witness with the rest of the community this marvelous event for the whole Catholic Church.

At the end of that historical moment, I heard many other comments by seminarians and seminary personnel as well.  I would like to summarize their comments with these lines: Pope Francis is a blessing from God for every one of us, and without forgetting our beloved Benedict XVI, we can say that we are so blessed to have both of them, one actively shepherding God's flock and the other one praying and devoting his life to the new Pope and the entire Church. Hence, by their example we must offer ourselves in the Eucharistic meal for everyone, but especially for our newly-elected Pope.

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