Msgr. Figueiredo said he had been walking in the Vatican Gardens one day in April when he got a phone call from the Pope himself.
The Pope said that he knew the priest's mother would be coming to Rome for the Jubilee of Priests, and wanted to meet her. Since he was busy throughout the three-day event, which concluded with a Mass June 3, Francis told Msgr. Figueiredo that "I would really like her to come to my home prior to that Mass."
It was Pope Francis himself, then, who "completely organized everything," and welcomed both the priest and his mother into his residence at the Vatican's St. Martha Guesthouse the morning of June 3.
"It was very, very beautiful. He was just like an ordinary parish priest the way he made my mother welcome," Msgr. Figueiredo said, recalling how Francis spoke about the number of children in their families and the biblical roots of some of their names.
One particularly touching moment for Msgr. Figueiredo was when the Pope told him that he recognized the priest's mother from a photo he had given him.
"I gave him the photo three years ago," Msgr. Figueiredo said, saying it's "quite extraordinary that this Pope, who is probably the most photographed man in the world, remembers each person. It's as if he has them in his heart."
Pope Francis also administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to Sarah, who has suffered from two strokes in recent years and in 2010 was diagnosed with aggressive, stage 4 breast cancer, but today is cancer-free.
The Pope "took his time, there was no rush, and he was particularly compassionate," the priest said, noting how when his mother attempted to stand up for the anointing, Francis told her sit down and himself got up.
"I think that's amazing from a Pope. There's really no sense of being in authority, he's really a servant, a servant of the servants of God. We touched that that day in his residence."
Sarah, who carried the chalice up to the altar during the Mass after their meeting, said to visit the Pope was "a gift from God…I felt very proud that God had chosen me to come to this special occasion."
After bringing the chalice to the Pope, "he pressed my hand, and he recognized me and he held me tight," she said, explaining that the experience is something "I will remember all my life and I thank God for that."
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She also thanked her son for helping give her the opportunity to meet the Pope and to receive his blessing. Giving advice to parents who are hoping for a religious vocation among their children, she counselled that "the more you pray the better it is."
"We need more priests in this world," she said, noting how she "always prayed" for her son's vocation. Even at 84, Sarah continues to pray a daily rosary, keeping one under her pillow so that should she wake up during the night, she can pray a decade before going back to sleep.
Msgr. Figueiredo said that to celebrate the Jubilee of Priests alongside his mother "was an enormous sign to me that God is faithful," especially when someone gives something of their life to him, whether it's a parent, a child, a type of suffering, or a vocation.
In regards to the "special mission" his mother believed he had, the priest said for him, this mission has entailed showing a special compassion and solidarity with those who suffer.
"I truly believe what St. Paul said: that God's power is made perfect in weakness," he said, voicing his belief that priests "who particularly have a cross can show a certain kind of compassion and mercy to those who are suffering."
While as a priest "I can preach until the cows come home," people really start paying attention when they see "that you yourself suffer in your flesh…one immediately connects."