Apr 28, 2009
I have spent this semester studying abroad in Rome, and it has been a wonderful experience. Over the last four months, I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel all over Europe, as well as to spend time really getting to know the Eternal City. Of the many wonderful things I have been able to do, one of the highlights of the semester has definitely been attending all the Papal activities over the Easter Triduum this year.
Easter Sunday Mass with Pope Benedict XVI was an unforgettable experience. Tens of thousands of people filled St. Peter’s Square, and the crowds spilled out far into the streets. The whole Mass was beautiful, but the part that made the greatest impression on me was the "Urbi et Orbi" message issued at the conclusion of the Mass. This message is the Pope’s traditional Easter blessing to the world, and the Holy Father delivered it in over 60 languages – from Italian to Swahili, and everything in between. In English, the message translates, "May the grace and joy of the Risen Christ be with you all."
Hearing these words, I was struck with a deeper awareness of how universal the Catholic Church really is. It is something I have been coming to see more and more throughout the semester. Traveling around Europe over the last four months, I have attended Mass in a multitude of languages. In some of them, such as French and Italian, I was able to translate decent portions, while in others, like Greek and Hungarian, I couldn’t understand a word. But even in languages that were totally foreign to me, I was able to follow along with the Mass. Particularly during the consecration, I knew exactly what was happening. The bread and wine were becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. The consecration is the same in any language, in any country, in any time. The word Catholic means "universal," and our Church is truly universal through time and space. We are all one, united in the Eucharist.
The realization of our unity within the Church gives me hope and confidence. Looking at all the challenges faced by Catholics in today’s world, it is easy to become discouraged. Trying to live out our faith on a college campus can be difficult, and we sometimes feel like we are all alone in our struggles. But looking at the amazing unity of the Catholic Church reminds us that we are not alone at all. We are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Christ told Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16:18). Today, we are members of that same Church, founded by Christ, that has withstood 2000 years of trials and attacks. And yet the Church has survived, and lives on all across the globe. That is incredible!