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Catholic Voice
  August 12, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

We are all counting on each other


Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

There has been so much activity in the Church since my last column it's hard to know where to start. The Pope issued a new encyclical, "Lumen Fidei" ("Light of Faith"): the first encyclical written by two popes.

There was World Youth Day in Brazil, which culminated in a huge Mass on Copacabana Beach with more than 2 million kids in attendance. Then on the way home the pope gave an informal news conference on the plane, where his words about gays, "If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them" were quoted around the world.

Lastly the pope went to the Jesuits' mother church in Rome, the Gesú, to celebrate Mass on the Feast of St. Ignatius with more than 200 Jesuits in attendance (I love that the Mass was at 8 a.m. so all my confreres had to get up early.)

Although there were many words spoken (and very good words at that), I always pay more attention to actions, since St. Ignatius says in his "Spiritual Exercises," "Actions speak louder than words."

At one point in the Brazil trip a young boy of about 10 was held up for the pope to embrace. The child held on to the pope and said, "I want to be a priest of Christ, a representative of Christ."

Pope Francis embraces Nathan de Brito as he arrives at a park to hear confessions in Rio de Janeiro July 26.
L'Osservatore Romano/cns

Pope Francis was moved to tears and responded, "I am going to pray for you, but I ask you to pray for me. As of today, your vocation is set." The kid was emotionally overwhelmed (to see it Google "Nathan de Brito and Pope"). I believe in this gesture the pope hugged every young person at the gathering, and judging by the response, the millions of youth experienced the love and embrace of the Holy Father. Love. Affection. Fatherhood. Priesthood. Service. Vocation. Humility. Peter. Joy. Hope. Enthusiasm. Christ-like-ness. All were contained in this symbolic action of Pope Francis.

In another gesture that almost went unnoticed, the Holy Father invited 35 garbage collectors (actually those who work in the smelly and filthy city dump in Rio) to join him on the altar at places of honor for one of the Youth Day Masses. This action reminds me of the words of Our Lady in her "Magnificat" (Luke 1:52) and recited at Vespers daily: "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly" — and Matthew 20:16 — "The last shall be first." This is the second time Pope Francis has singled out the humble. Vatican garbage collectors were the first group he invited to his morning Mass in his residence in Rome.

These actions sum up the main message Pope Francis gave the youth, and indeed all of us, in his closing homily in Brazil: "Go and make disciples of all nations." "Go, do not be afraid, and serve." "Jesus Christ is counting you!" "The Church is counting on you!" "The Pope is counting on you!" My brothers and sisters in the Oakland diocese, I am counting on you, as you are on me.

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