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Scots Catholic

Calling Scotland's 841,000 Catholics to unite as one voice


Anthony Horan reports from Rome as Pope Francis continues to wow the crowds with his infectious enthusiasm and unconditional love and trust in Christ

On Sunday 21 April 2013, after he had ordained ten men to the Priesthood in St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis appeared to around 100,000 people gathered in St Peter’s square at the Vatican. I was lucky enough to be among them.

It was a glorious day in Rome and the faithful had gathered to catch a glimpse and to hear the words of their recently appointed Holy Father. And, as has often been the case since he became the 265th successor to Peter, he did not disappoint.

I can’t help but feel Pope Francis is now encouraging the faithful to be pro-active with their faith; an obvious ‘next step’ from the foundations of faith laid by his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. There is a real and obvious dovetailing of the work of these two great men and the decision by Pope Benedict to step down, despite some of the cynicism which followed, is becoming increasingly shrewder by the day.

Pope Francis, as he stepped up to the window in the papal apartment to reveal himself to the crowd, received a typically fervent welcome as people, flying flags and raising banners, clapped their hands and shouted his name. This is what we had come to see. It was the moment of truth. 

Before reciting the midday Regina Coeli (which replaces the traditional Angelus during Easter), the Pope referred to the ordination Mass he had just celebrated, and called on the youth who were present to be aware that “sometimes Jesus calls us, invites us to follow him, but maybe we don’t realise that it is him.” He asked them “have you sometimes heard the voice of the Lord which through a desire, a certain restlessness, invites you to follow him more closely? Have you heard it?”

The crowd reacted with some people shouting “Si!” but the Pope, disappointed by what he felt was a lacklustre response, held his right hand to his hear and said “I can’t hear you….” to which the crowd responded with an almighty “Si!”

Pope Francis, the animated Pope, was playing with the crowd; and we loved it!

However, through the camaraderie between speaker and audience was a serious message, and the Pope invited the young to “ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave! Be brave, ask him!”

This wonderful yet simple message can resonate in all of us. We all have a vocation, whether it be the priesthood, the religious life, marriage, or the single life. It may be to travel and experience different cultures. It may be to work hard at our job and achieve great things through our careers. It may be in our playing sports, or in our daily walk in the park. As St John Bosco would attest, this is all prayer. 

For some, that call to prayer may go that bit deeper. God will undoubtedly call those whom he wants to carry out duties which call for a greater sacrifice of self. And the Pope, in this address, was inviting those people present, and all Catholic faithful around the world, to be entirely open to that call; to listen intently for the voice of Jesus and let him be our guide. If we cannot trust our Lord and Saviour, then who can we trust?

I think it may be hard for us to really comprehend that Jesus will actually listen to us when we sit down and ask him what he wants of our lives. We may be sitting on our couch, or lying in bed saying our night prayers, looking into the empty space around us, and beyond that at the pictures on our walls and the wallpaper or paintwork. It doesn’t seem that Jesus is there. Or it doesn’t seem that anything I might say will actually be heard by him. Is he busy helping someone who is in greater need? Is he busy with his own prayers? 

These are all perfectly valid questions. But the answer is similarly valid; Jesus is listening to everything we say. Even when we aren’t directly addressing him he knows what we are saying. He knows each of us individually and recognises our voice. He is always listening. It may be frustrating when we don’t get a straight answer right away; this is part of being human. But that shouldn’t matter too much because the answer will come. The main thing is that we have opened our hearts and Jesus was listening; he has heard what we have to say. That is an astounding joy in itself.      

After a peaceful and beautiful recitation of the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis continued to address the crowd, giving a special mention to the youth of Venice who had attended in such great numbers. The crowd then began to shout “Francesco, Francesco…” only for the Pope to softly chastise them saying that, although he is grateful for the recognition, we should all be shouting the name “Jesus, Jesus! Jesus!!” It was an incredible moment; to see the Holy Father clench his fist and raise it aloft while shouting the name of Jesus. The faithful reacted with fervour, shouting out our Lord’s great name from the top of their voice. 

Then, as has become customary on these occasions, the Pope finished off his address with a call for everyone to enjoy their Sunday and, of course, to “avere un buon pranzo!” Have a good lunch!  

Pope Francis continues to astound; with his fatherly love and concern for the whole of mankind, his desire to connect with each of us individually, and his compassion and love for all. He has grabbed our hearts and, on our behalf, has raised them up and offered them to Christ. With every word, with every step, he is taking us closer to Jesus.

Further Information on Vocations

For any man who may be considering a vocation in the priesthood, a useful place to start may well be the Priests for Scotland website which provides an opportunity to learn more about the vocation.

There is also an interesting opportunity for retreat in Coatbridge at the end of April and more details can be found here on our Events Page.

For any woman considering the religious life a useful place to start would be the website A Nun's Life and also the Carmelite Nun's who have a presence throughout the UK.