As I wrote earlier this week, the bishops gathered with the Focolare Movement this week had the opportunity to visit with Pope Francis.  For anyone, to be in the presence of the Holy Father is a unique blessing, and it is no different with Pope Francis.  I can tell you that being face-to-face with this man makes evident that his personal witness of faith gives great credibility to all he is preaching and prodding in this first year of his pontificate.

The joy of his persona is contagious.  The message he preaches is one he himself has interiorized over a lifetime of prayer, relationship and priestly and episcopal ministry of service.  He is genuinely authentic when he invites all believers and non-believers alike to be open to an encounter with Christ, or an even more intimate relationship than may presently exist.


Photo by L’Osservatore Romano with permission

In this photo, I simply thanked him for his ministry, and assured him of our gratitude and prayers.

Another very important stop during our time at the Vatican was a visit to the tomb of St. Peter.  For every bishop, this is a great grace to visit the “Rock upon whom the Church is built.”  I always seek St. Peter’s intercession for my own apostolic ministry as a bishop, that I may have the grace, love and courage to be the bishop God desires me to be on behalf of and in the midst of God’s people.

On Thursday, we also visited the tomb of Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II, both of whom will soon be canonized as Saints.  Prayerful request is also made of them for their intercession for a fruitful episcopal ministry, and for the needs of the Universal Church today.

My time in Rome is winding down.  I have just a few more meetings and then will fly home on Tuesday in time for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent with the People of God in my own diocese.  May all that the Good God desires for each of us this Lenten season be obtained by our practice of prayer, fasting, charity, and our humble walk with one another towards the fullness of God’s Kingdom.