Lincoln, Neb., Mar 12, 2018 / 23:28 pm
Five years ago, I stood in the refectory of St. John Vianney Seminary of Denver, with colleagues, friends, and a few hundred seminarians, watching on television as a much larger crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, appeared on a balcony above the square, we erupted into cheers, and then we fell silent as the pope asked the world to pray for him, and offered us his blessing.
From there, we went to "Francis-fest," a rally at the state capitol organized by friends, and then to Mass, where we prayed for Francis, as he had asked. We kept the party going at a nearby Argentine restaurant, eating chimichurri pizza and toasting our new pope.
From the beginning, the pope has inspired me and my family. When his simplicity of life and love for the poor became obvious, our family decided to donate to the poor some things we loved, in his honor. We tried to give from our need, as he seemed to do, instead of from our excess. His emphasis on "accompaniment" has transformed our approach to evangelization, and his thought on "ideological colonization" and the "existential peripheries" has called me to greater solidarity with marginalized people and communities.
Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis, and talk with him for a few minutes. I was awestruck by the experience of standing before St. Peter's successor – touched by the continuity of the papacy and the Lord's guidance and protection of his Church. And I was struck by the pope's pastoral attention: in broken Spanish, I asked him to pray for our family, and thanked him for his love for disabled people. When our short conversation ended, I knew that he had heard and understood me, and I was moved.