My Reflection: When Pope Francis Visited Us at the NAC

This week, as we pray together for the men in our diocese who will be ordained to the priesthood and the transitional diaconate on Saturday, we reflect upon Our Lord’s invitation to the priesthood and those who respond generously to His call.

By: Rev. Mr. Richard Miserendino, Arlington Diocese seminarian

Last month, on May 2, marked a historic day for those of us studying at the Pontifical North American College. We were blessed to have the Holy Father join us for Mass in celebration of the upcoming canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra, the famed missionary of California.

Several Arlington seminarians had roles in the day. Joe Rampino served as a cantor, Steven Oetjen as a Master of Ceremonies, and Rev. Rich Miserendino as Deacon of the Altar, pictured here to the left of the Holy Father. (Photo by Kyle Manglona)

Several Arlington seminarians had roles in the day. Joe Rampino served as a cantor, Steven Oetjen as a Master of Ceremonies, and Rev. Mr. Rich Miserendino as Deacon of the Altar, pictured here to the left of the Holy Father. (Photo by Kyle Manglona)

Excitement was in the air as the Holy Father arrived. For those of us serving in the liturgy, we had the grace and honor to meet him briefly before the Mass and assist him in preparing with the celebration itself. I was honored to serve as a deacon for the occasion, and thus had an opportunity to serve and witness the event in a unique way.

Of all the things striking about that day, the one key theme among them was “Peter leads us to Christ”. I remember this in three distinct moments throughout the morning. First was the way the Holy Father prepared for the liturgy, and the second was the difference in his demeanor before and after he vested for the Mass. As soon as he arrived, Pope Francis greeted each of us in the sacristy with a handshake, a few words, and that warm, charming smile that has won the world over. From there, he immediately readied himself for Mass. In watching him, his movements and mannerisms struck me as almost identical to every parish priest I’ve ever watched getting ready for a daily Mass. (Even the Pope puts on his vestments one arm at a time.) The image was equally clear: Pope Francis was stripping himself of all worldly titles and honors, and what was left was a simple, humble priest, ready to make Christ present among his flock.

(Photo by Michael Lund)

(Photo by Michael Lund)

Once the Holy Father had vested, his attitude also noticeably changed. It wouldn’t be right to say that the affable Pope Francis we all know and love ever left, but rather that he became solemn and full of purpose. From the beginning of Mass to the end, Pope Francis’ focus was palpably intent on our Lord to be made present in the Eucharist. It was clear that in visiting us, Pope Francis had taken on the mantle of Peter and was drawing us closer to the Lord.

Thus the third moment for reflection: Joining in the celebration of the Eucharist as a deacon at the side of the Pope threw the true focus of the Mass into sharp relief: What was essential here? Was it Pope Francis’ presence or something more? Pope Francis’ way of celebrating the liturgy made all clear: The summit and true joy of that Mass was Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament, the same as present in each and every Mass in each and every Church throughout the world. Christ yesterday, today and always.

All this was fitting for the day: At a college where seminarians prepare to bring Christ to the world and lead others to Him, in celebration of Serra who will be canonized for his work bringing people to Christ, the Holy Father’s presence was an additional grace that emphasized our true purpose and drew our attention to Him in whom we live and move and have our being.

Rev. Rich serves as Deacon of the Alter, pictured here bowing to the left of the Holy Father. (Photo by Michael Lund)

Rev. Mr. Rich serves as Deacon of the Alter, pictured here bowing to the left of the Holy Father. (Photo by Michael Lund)

View more photos from this historic event here. Please attain permission from the NAC to use them, and provide appropriate attribution. Each photo file name has as its beginning the initials of the photographer: BVW: Bill Van Wagner, DH: Daniel Hart, KM: Kyle Manglona, ML: Michael Lund. Find more photos in the NAC’s Facebook album.

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