Madeleine and I were jumping out of our skin! It was the day we were going to St Peter’s square to hopefully meet the Holy Father Pope Francis. Every Wednesday the Holy Father holds an audience where thousands gather to hear him preach. The Papal audience normally starts about 9:30, but we had heard from the locals that Pope Francis likes to come out a little early for a surprise. Apparently he likes to do a few extra laps in the Pope mobile and stop regularly to bless the children and the sick. We arrived at St Peter’ square at 7am, and to my shock there was already a crowd of a few thousand that were queued in line. I noticed many newlyweds in their suits and white dresses, eagerly awaiting to get the newlywed blessing as we were!
Sure enough, Pope Francis came rolling out at 9:15 on the back of the Pope Mobile, and the crowd roared! The audience began and Pope Francis gave a short catechesis on the Eucharist, and then Cardinals from around the world gave a short summary of what was said in their own language. The summaries were presented in English, German, French and a few other common languages. He then extended a blessing to everyone present and any religious items anyone may have with them.
Hearing a catechesis from the Holy Father (once translated) was such a powerful experience! Only a few days before the audience, Madeleine and I did the Scavi Tour, which is a tour underneath St Peter’s Basilica. We were taken to the tomb of St Peter. I saw, with my own eyes, the bones of St Peter! I remember feeling totally stunned and amazed at what I was looking at. The words of Jesus took on a whole new meaning for me that day, when he said in Matthew 16:18, “You are Peter, and on this Rock I will build my Church.” Jesus literally built his Church upon the body of St Peter, the first Pope!
The audience ended and Pope Francis began to walk around greeting the excited crowd. We were eagerly looking at the guard waiting to be led through the gate we were hoping was going to open. Out of 70 or 80 couples, Madeleine and I were the fourth to go through! I could not believe it; I was leaning over the gate waiting for Pope Francis to come! I was pumped!
It wasn’t until about 11:30 that Pope Francis actually got to us. As I saw him coming closer I began to become more still. A peace and a calm came over me that I had never felt. Madeleine was so awestruck she wasn’t able to speak. He came closer and closer, and then I reached out to touch him. He reached for my hand and said to us all, “Pray for me.” Then with the other hand he reached for Madeleine’s and he blessed our wedding rings. I slipped him a letter that I had written that morning asking for prayers for our marriage, our families and our ministry. He smiled and nodded as I asked him to pray for us as well.
Then with an over excited tone I said, “I’ve come all the way from Sydney to see you, can I have a hug?!” He laughed, petted my head and then came in for a big one! I felt so calm, so loved, so at peace. He was so gentle and warm. After my hug I turned to Madeleine and we both just laughed! We were so excited! All we could say to each other for the next few hours was, “We met the Pope!”
It was truly an experience that I will never forget. I was reminded of the great gift that the papacy is to our Church. Pope Francis is the 266th pope – an unbreakable lineage of successors from St Peter! Join me in praying for Pope Francis! A great thing to do is to pray an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be everyday for the pope.