I watched the inauguration of Pope Francis today on EWTN. You probably caught some of it, too, if not on EWTN then through coverage by the secular channels.
Because I have attended many papal Masses and visited St. Peter’s Square so often, improbable as it may seem, I think of St. Peter’s Basilica with its colonades like arms spread wide to the world, as home. I have the same warm feeling every time I go there now, but it wasn’t always that way.
In 1981,on my first visit, I entered the Piazza San Pietro from a side street and as I turned the corner, there it was, grander and more beautiful than I had expected it to be. I had to lean against one of the columns as I took the scene in: the glorious facade of St. Peter’s; Michaelangelo’s dome, hovering; Bernini’s columns surrounding the piazza, gathering us all into one; the obilisk surmounted by an orb and crowned with a cross; the two fountains gushing springs of living water. For a minute or so, I could not speak. I had never been moved by any scene as much as that one. It was awesome.
Now, that awe has softened into something like love. When I enter the square, I feel like I am being welcomed as a Catholic to the worldwide mission of the church. There are always Catholics from
every part of the world visiting and praying in this place. I’ve been one of those pilgrims, regularly.
Today, as I listened to Pope Francis, I felt I was participating there with those thousands of people in front of him, although I am physically far away. Like them, my hope was renewed.
And, I lifted my heart with all those in the square,when the pope called us in his homily to live the message of Jesus Christ.
If there were no St. Peter’s Basilica, no grand colonade, no statues of saints watching over Piazza San Pietro, we Christians would still be at it, working to build up the Body of Christ in our world. We have to keep working on the building.