The Anchoress just posted again the story and video of Nathan telling Pope Francis that he wants to be a priest. It’s incredible moving. And its a story that is my own as well. You see, the same thing has happened to me. Twice. The first time, it happened in October of 2002. I was just a senior in High School. I was at this point in my life pretty sure I wanted to be a priest. But, I also thought of being a chef. And of joining the Navy. That year was the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of my home parish, St. Jane Frances de Chantal. To mark that occasion the parish took a pilgrimage to France and Rome. I was lucky enough to join the trip.
On the trip there was a woman who needed assistance with her wheelchair throughout the trip. being the youngest person on the trip that job, happily, fell to me. What I didn’t know was that this would be my golden opportunity to Meet the pope at the Wednesday general audience. Pope John Paul II would meet with any person in a wheel chair and those that cared for them. This was all a surprise to me. At the beckoning of a member of the swiss guard, I pushed the wheel chair to the top of the steps in front of St. Peters Square. The Holy Father came in and I was blown away by just how close I was to the Pope. At the end of the audience I couldn’t believe my eyes. The group of us gathered with those in wheelchairs was being called to line up. We were going to meet the Pope! I wracked and wracked my brain! What was I going to say to the Pope?! Well, when the time came, I pushed the wheelchair closer to the pope and my friend shook his hand and he blessed her. I bowed down in front of Pope John Paul II, unable to kneel because of the wheelchair in front of me. I took his hand, looked into his eyes and I said to him, “Holy Father I want to be a priest.” I kissed his ring, then leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. I couldn’t help but think that this man was just like my grandfather. And that’s what I always did, I kissed gramps on the cheek. I was quickly pushed aside by an aide. But I’ll never forget those words, not really sure where they came from.
Fast forward a few years later, I was in Rome again, this time on my way to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. My group was touring Rome, but since I was just there a few years earlier I wanted to go to the Audience to see Pope Benedict. I eagerly went to the middle of the Paul VI hall and waited. I waited and waited. The crowd grew more and more intense as we waited for the Pope. He entered from the rear of the hall, still at this time walking down the main aisle. He was moving from side to side, shaking hands, blessing people. As he came to where I was waiting in the Hall he abruptly move to the other side of the aisle. I thought my chance was lost. But then, again, moved with out thinking I yelled to the Pope, “Holy Father, I want to be a priest!!” Pope Benedict spun on his heels and came to my side of the aisle. The people around me looked at me we shock and delight. Benedict grabbed me, and without saying anything blessed me. I kissed his ring and he moved on.
I’ll never forget the blessing of having met these two great men. And I’ll never forget the power of the Holy Spirit moving me to say the same thing, both times. I want to be a priest. Thanks be to God, I am now a priest. Through the prayers and intercession of Blessed john Paul II and the influence of Pope Benedict XVI. Please God, may the desire to become a priest be felt by many more men! I’m praying for young Nathan a lot these days. I feel linked to him. Blessed John Paul II, pray for him!