October 19, 2023: Praying With Pope Francis

A group of people standing in front of a building.

Wow! This week is flying! On Tuesday, friends and I had a guided tour of the Gesu, the Jesuit Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, and of the rooms in which St. Ignatius Loyola lived. As you can see, the church was designed in the awesomely garish Baroque style of the sixteenth century. The vision of the Holy Name of Jesus, surrounded by angel choirs covers the ceiling and appears to spill down to us humans on the earth below. I was moved by the painting of Jesuit superior general, Pedro Arrupe at the foot of the cross – an appropriate portrayal of his life! The relic of St. Francis Xavier’s arm is also located in the Gesu, as is the tomb of St. Ignatius. This highly ornate resting place contrasts sharply with the simplicity of his rooms, where a simple wooden desk and chair and a pair of plain shoes remind us of Ignatius’ humble lifestyle.

Tuesday evening, I had dinner with Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora, who is a theologian at the synod and works in the Secretariat for the Synod. Although she could not share the specifics of what is being discussed inside the synod, Sr. M. Kolbe said that the process of deep listening to the Spirit within and in each other is working! There are different views but no divisions. This affirms what we have practiced at Cranaleith for twenty-five years. When she heard me describe what happens at Cranaleith, she encouraged me to keep doing this. Reflecting with God on our experiences and providing that opportunity for all people is the key; theology is secondary, sometimes not even needed.

Wednesday morning we joined thousands of people for Pope Francis General Audience in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis drove around in his pope-mobile, waving to the crowd and blessing babies. Amazingly, three little children accompanied him in the car; he tousled their hair as they went. Then lectors read the daily gospel in Italian, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish. Pope Francis gave a reflection on the virtue of zeal. The lectors greeted him on behalf of the pilgrims from countries who spoke the language of the lector; he responded. Then the lectors each gave a summary of the pope’s reflection. We prayed the Our Father together and received Pope Francis’ blessing. Since Pope Francis is a hero of mine, I was very moved to be with him and pray with him. In the afternoon, Discerning Deacons, with whom I am staying this week, and the Ecclesial Institute on the Amazon (CEAMA) hosted a workshop for synod delegates on the women and the deaconate, a topic they are discussing this week in the synod assembly. Two women who are authorized by their bishops to minister as deacons – Laura Vicuna CF, who ministers to native tribe in the Amazon, and Elizabeth Davis RSM who works with Australian aboriginal people — shared their experiences. Serena Noceti, an internationally recognized theological authority on the deaconate, explained the history and theology. Marie Philomene Pean, who ministers to refugees in Boston, gave witness to the difficulty she has in her ministry because she is not officially authorized by the Church in her ministry for the Church. Sixty-five people attended, including the students from Fordham that we worked with on Monday.

My time here is reaffirming the ministry of Cranaleith for me. Conversations in the Spirit work as a spiritual practice and as a way forward for organizations that want to cooperate with the Divine. This is an important moment, hopeful and practical at the same time. Please keep me in your prayers, as you are in mine.