The line is not moving at all, it is cold, and I hardly know what I am doing here. Finally I find a seat and try as best as I can to stay warm waiting for the papal audience to start. Yes, I am a seminarian in Saint Peter’s square not at all excited to listen to the successor of Peter. It is a shame, but after very little time living in Rome this wonderful Piazza, heart of the Catholic Church, has lost much of its excitement. It is amazing how one can get used to anything, even the most beautiful things, at least as soon as selfishness gets in the way.
I remember the summer days, when I just got to Rome, trying to find any excuse possible to go to Saint Peter’s Square, feeling so proud of being a Catholic, but this morning, I slept badly and it is winter and cold.
“Is that chair free?” The question wakes me up from my complaining meditation, and since it was pronounced in broken Italian it takes me several seconds to decode the message and figure out that the fifty-year-old lady speaking probably speaks English. “ Sure, have a seat” The guess was good enough; she is from the Philippines and is happy to be able to talk to someone. After a couple words, the Pope come out, and as he spoke we stay silent. But… wait, is she actually understanding anything? The Pope has been speaking for almost ten minutes by now and I finally propose to translate as best as I can the words of the successor of Peter. She is very happy of the offer but sure enough, after two sentences, the audience is done.
I am cold, tired, and feel really stupid. “ I’ m sorry I should have started since the beginning”. Here I had an opportunity to make this bad morning into a nice one by being of some use for this lady who was so excited to be in St Peter’s square. But instead no, thinking of myself and how cold I was, I forgot the basics of Christian charity. This is a terrible day. Why on earth am I here?
She seems really happy anyway and assures me that there is no problem, she is glad to be here and see the Pope. She then turns to walk away but suddenly turns back holding her rosary. “ I want you to have my rosary.” The request surprises me. What on earth am I suppose to do with another rosary? I have plenty of them, and I am usually the one offering them here and there. Obviously in front of that gentle a smile and not wanting to offend her, I try to smile too as I thank her. But as I reach to grab the rosary, her face suddenly saddens. “Oh no, it’s broken” she says, and she shows me the crucifix at the end of the rosary. The legs of Jesus are broken and the feet are missing. “ It is because… because you have to be his feet,” and she is gone.
The point hit home: I am finally able to wipe away the selfishness and open my eyes to the reality of this beautiful day. As Christians we believe in the mystical body of Christ: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Cor. 12: 12-14) But today those words have a new meaning for me. Here in St Peter’s Square in the midst of a crowd of Catholics like me, all members of the mystical body of Christ, I saw the Pope, head of the Church, representative of Christ, and head of the Mystical body. I stayed several minutes contemplating the crucified body of our Lord telling me. “You are here to be my feet.” Once again I was the one who was suppose to have given, and I was the one who received. Be my feet! Be the apostle that reaches out to people, bringing me to them. Of course, feet are not the noblest part of a body, but as a religious my vocation of total self-giving is also well represented by this part of the body. May this day always remind me that no matter how cold and tired they are, feet need to go on. For the Kingdom of Christ to the glory of God.