29 July 2013

'I want to become a priest.'

These photos were taken in Rio. I came across them on Facebook and they're from the FB of Zenit, one of the leading Catholic news agencies. Here is the story that goes with the photos.

While the papal entourage made its way through the picturesque Quinta de Boa Vista park, a nine year old boy wearing a Seleçao soccer jersey, jumped the hurdles and made his way through to the white jeep, where he was received affectionately by Pope Francis, and whispered in the Pontiff’s ear: 'I have a very important message for you . . . I want to become a priest.'

At this point the Pope, visibly moved, clutched him to his chest and told the boy. “'dream begins to fulfill today. I will pray for you, but you must pray for me.'

With trembling legs and his hands over his face, full of emotion and excitement, the young boy returned to his father, happy and even more proud of his son for this unique moment.


One of my Irish Columban confreres told me that when he was eight he wrote to Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Ireland and Britain, saying that he wanted to be a Columban priest. The editor took him seriously and wrote him a letter in which he gently pointed out that while he was still too young at that stage to enter the seminary he should continue praying that he would become a priest.

The first stirrings of my own vocation came when I was around seven or so, being attracted by the white habit of the Dominican friars in St Saviour's Church, Dominick Street, Dublin. My father used to take me there occasionally for High Mass.

The boy's football shirt is that of the Brazilian national team, known in Portuguese as Seleção Brasileira.

One of the remarkable things about all World Youth Days is that while young pilgrims from every country are very proud to carry their national flags they all find their common and deepest identity as Catholic Christians as they try to live out their baptism and celebrate that at the various liturgies and gatherings. Just before the closing Mass in Rio all were asked to lower their flags.

My own experience is that when a person with a strong positive sense of self is totally at ease with others who may be different in many ways and makes them feel at home. The same applies to communities with a strong positive sense of identity. When at home with ourselves we can rejoice in the diversity around us.

I'm pretty sure that if the youngster in the photos and Pope Francis were at a football game between Argentina and Brazil they would be on opposite sides in cheerful, good-natured but real rivalry. But here the little boy sees a Holy Father in whom he can confide his dream of becoming a priest.

May that dream come true and may the memory of the Holy Father's embrace be a source of hope to himself and through him to others in the years ahead.
One remarkable thing about the lower photo is that the security men, who have a very serious and difficult job, are smiling. You don't often see that!

1 comment:

Nik said...

Father, I can guarantee you the story is true, as we could see across all media in Brazil, like newspaper, websites and facebook.
And congratulations for your blog, richer than many others I know in the internet. I am a long time reader of your work and you always have something special to share. You are a very inteligent man.
Sua benção,
Nik - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.