Hartford, Conn., Jun 10, 2012 (CNA) - Few people have the opportunity to attend a Mass celebrated by the Pope. Far fewer have the privilege to do so in his private chapel at the Vatican.
Mario Enzler is one of those people. He spoke in Hartford on April 29 about how his faith grew during the nearly four years he protected Pope John Paul II as a member of the famed Swiss Guard.
An only child, he is the son of an Italian mother and Swiss father. He served in the Swiss Army before applying to join the Swiss Guard because, as he joked, he thought the uniforms looked sharp and would help him meet girls.
His talk was entitled “I Served a Saint,” and he spoke of how John Paul II “helped me to grow as a man in my faith” and in his appreciation of the priesthood. “The love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our Holy Father.”
In a talk that mixed humor with a serious message, he explained that “the popes have an army and that army is from Switzerland. The Swiss didn’t do just banking and chocolates. They were mercenaries” and highly valued for their military skills.
Members of the guard may serve a maximum of 10 years. They can marry after two years of service, but only if there is an available apartment for the couple within Vatican City.
The typical work week is 100 hours and many days involve split shifts, he said.
“When you are a Swiss Guard, you never go home. You become a citizen of Vatican City” and live there full time, Mr. Enzler added. The pay is modest at best.
“To be a Swiss Guard, it’s a mission. You get a call, you leave your family,” he said. “Spending time in the Apostolic Palace in the presence of the Lord forms the soul of a Swiss Guard.”
Depending upon their assignment, members of the guard may or may not be in ceremonial uniform. The Pope always has two Swiss Guards alongside whenever he travels. The entire force numbers 100.
Mr. Enzler told a number of personal stories, some of them drawing laughs, about his experiences at the Vatican. But most were tales of faith.
“The first time I met John Paul II, I was doing my night shift” at a desk in the hallway outside the papal apartment from midnight to 6 a.m., he said.
At 3 a.m. he noticed that a light was on and went to investigate. It was in the tiny chapel next to the Pope’s bedroom and there before him was the Holy Father, kneeling in deep, intimate prayer, with one hand on the tabernacle and his forehead pressed against the back of that hand.
Mr. Enzler quietly backed away so as not to disturb him. A couple of hours later, a cardinal came down the hall and invited him to attend the 5:30 Mass that would be celebrated by the Pope. He was one of only six people present.
The Mass was truly special, but what impressed him the most was how the Holy Father had spent two and a half hours in prayer to properly prepare himself for the Mass.
“I saw the presence of the Lord in that small chapel,” he said.
Later that day, the Pope approached him in the hallway and invited Mr. Enzler to join him the next time he was in intimate prayer. He had somehow sensed the guard’s presence outside the chapel.
On Good Friday, the Swiss Guard selects a few people from among the crowd at St. Peter’s Basilica to have their confessions heard by the Pope. On one occasion, the last person in line was a pregnant woman who went into labor and had to be rushed to the hospital.
The sergeant of the guard ordered Mr. Enzler to take her place. He was a little uneasy about this because the penitents were supposed to come from the congregation, but he followed orders.
As he started his confession, the Holy Father spoke up from the other side of the darkened confessional and said, “I know this voice.” He smiles about it now.
He estimated that during his career, he saw as many as 750 world leaders pass before him in the waiting room outside of the Pope’s office, all waiting for a personal audience with the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. They included heads of state, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.
That list may sound impressive, but “I learned in the Vatican that the biggest leader in the world is Jesus Christ.”
Mr. Enzler now serves as headmaster of the New England Classical Academy, a school in the Catholic tradition, in Claremont, N.H. His talk was held at the Polish National Home and sponsored by the Polish Cultural Club of Greater Hartford.
Posted with permission from The Catholic Transcript, the official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.
Denver, Colo., Jun 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On June 16 the Catholic Church celebrates the memory of Saint John Francis Regis, a 17th-century French Jesuit known for his zealous missionary efforts and his care for the poor and marginalized.
In a 1997 letter to the Bishop of Viviers, Blessed John Paul II commemorated the fourth centenary of St. John Francis Regis' birth, honoring him as a “lofty figure of holiness” and an example for the Church in the modern world.
“In less than 10 years of ministry, this saintly Frenchman succeeded, with God’s help, in leading back to Christ an immense crowd of men, women and children of all ages and walks of life,” the Pope recalled. He urged the faithful to imitate the saint and “put themselves in God’s hands with total trust.”
Born in 1597, John Francis Regis was the son of a wealthy merchant father and a mother descended from nobility. As a boy he was sensitive, devout, and eager to please his parents and teachers. Educated by Jesuits from the age of 14, he entered the Society of Jesus in December of 1616.
As he followed the traditional Jesuit path of teaching and extensive studies, John also became known as a skilled catechist. He was eager to enter the priesthood, and offered his first Mass in 1631. John spent much of the rest of that year caring for victims of a plague outbreak in the city of Toulouse.
In 1632, John received his assignment as a missionary to the French Protestants – known as Huguenots – as well as the country's lapsed Catholics and others in need of evangelization. The rest of his life would be devoted to this mission, with remarkable success.
John's missionary work spanned both a large geographical distance and a broad social spectrum. In over 50 districts of France, he preached the Gospel to children, the poor, prisoners, and others forgotten or neglected by society. His best-known work involved helping women escape prostitution.
John's labors reaped a harvest of conversions. However, his boldness – perceived as arrogance in some cases – led to a conflict with certain other priests, a period of tension with the local bishop, and even threats of violence from those whose vices he condemned.
Against these obstacles, the priest persevered, sustained by fervent prayer and severe asceticism. His missionary work involved difficult winter journeys, and a witness at his beatification testified to John’s habit of preaching outdoors all day, then hearing confessions throughout the night.
St. John Francis Regis died at age 43, in late December of 1640. Though suffering from a lung ailment, he insisted on preaching a parish mission and hearing confessions. A penitent found him unconscious in the confessional, though he revived long enough to receive the last rites before dying.
Hailed as a confessor of the faith and a model for Jesuit missionaries, St. John Francis Regis was beatified in 1716 and canonized in 1737. Although June 16 was established as his feast day, there are differing local and particular customs, including the Jesuits' celebration of his feast on July 2.
Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Catholic congressman from Louisiana is organizing an effort to have lawmakers file legal briefs in favor of lawsuits against the Obama administration’s controversial contraception mandate.
“It’s one way that members of Congress can get involved,” said Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.).
He told CNA on June 6 that as a lawyer, he understands the effect of amicus briefs filed by members of Congress. While such legal briefs are not binding, they “show the support” of U.S. legislators, he said.
The D.C.-based American Center for Law and Justice is helping draft the briefs, which should be finalized in the coming weeks.
Congress members will be able to sign on to the briefs arguing against a federal mandate that will require employers and colleges to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The regulation has drawn strong criticism for violating the religious freedom of those who object to it. Although it includes an exemption, it is so narrow that most religious organizations – including hospitals, schools and charitable agencies – would not qualify for it.
A legislative attempt to secure a broader exemption for those with religious or moral objections was narrowly defeated in the Senate this past March.
Concerned Americans are now increasingly turning to the courts to uphold their First Amendment freedoms. So far, the mandate has prompted a total of 23 lawsuits, filed by 56 plaintiffs in jurisdictions across the country.
Dioceses, colleges, Catholic Charities, private business owners and seven U.S. states are among those who have challenged the mandate. The cases may eventually be consolidated as they progress through the court system.
Rep. Landry explained that his briefs “will accompany each of the suits as they move through the courts.”
Legislators in both the House and Senate are welcome to sign on to the briefs, and Rep. Landry said that he would love to see every member of Congress speak out against this “clear violation” of religious liberty.
With legislative efforts failing to yield results, he believes that the briefs “give us another avenue” to join in the fight for freedom.
Rep. Landry said that his Catholic faith plays a strong role in shaping his decisions.
He related that he was born in Southern Louisiana in a “devout Roman Catholic family” and earned a law degree from a Catholic university.
“I was always taught that it’s God first, then country,” he said.
The congressman added that he shares the American founders’ belief in the importance of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
“Our form of government is based on Juedo-Christian principles,” he said, explaining that he finds it “extremely troubling” that the administration would now “ignore” the concerns of religious groups across the nation.
He also expressed concerns about the “slippery slope” that may form once liberties begin to erode.
“It strikes at the very foundation of what this country was founded upon,” he said.
Rep. Landry believes that the mandate will ultimately come before the Supreme Court. While he does not know how the high court will rule, he hopes that it is “on the side of religious freedom.”
“It’s pretty evident that if you read the Constitution, we’re on the right side,” he said.
Vatican City, Jun 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI praised the “lively tradition” of holding solemn processions with the Blessed Sacrament “through the streets and squares” on the Feast of Corpus Christi.
“The Catholic Church professes worship of the Eucharist ‘not only during Mass, but also outside of its celebration, preserving with the utmost diligence the consecrated hosts, presenting them for the solemn veneration of the Christian faithful, carrying them in procession with the joy of the Christian crowd’,” he said, quoting his predecessor Pope Paul VI’s 1965 encyclical “Mysterium Fidei.”
Pope Benedict addressed tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 10 to say the midday Marian prayer, the Angelus. Today’s Feast of Corpus Christi commemorates the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist and has been celebrated universally since 1264. While the Vatican celebrated the feast on Thursday, many dioceses worldwide transfer it to the following Sunday.
The Pope told pilgrims that the annual feast “renews in Christians the joy and the gratitude for the Eucharistic presence of Jesus” in the midst of his people. It is, he said, “a great act of public worship” that reminds everybody “the Lord remains present beyond the time of the celebration” of Mass. This is why in churches, from earliest times, “the most sacred place is precisely where the Eucharist is kept” in the tabernacle.
The Pope spoke “with emotion” of those people in the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna who were hit by a recent earthquake. There, amid the ruined churches, “the Eucharistic Body of Christ, in the tabernacles, has also remained in certain cases under the rubble,” he said.
With many of those affected having to attend Sunday Mass in the open air or in make-shift tents, the Pope reminded pilgrims that it is in the Eucharist that “the ability to share life and property, to carry each other’s burdens, the capacity for hospitality and welcome” is “born and renewed.”
He concluded by giving some personal advice on how to adore the Eucharist in prayer, suggesting that one can do so individually, “pausing in recollection in front of the tabernacle, and in community, also with psalms and hymns.”
Either way such prayer should preferably be done “in silence, in which to listen interiorly to the Lord alive and present in the Sacrament.”
The model for this form of Eucharistic prayer, he said, was the Virgin Mary “because no one knew better than she how to contemplate Jesus, with eyes of faith and openness of heart, the inner resonances of his human and divine presence.”