We have just concluded an extraordinary three hour private visit with Pope Francis as we begin our Ad Limina visit to Rome.
All of the Bishops of California, Hawaii, and Nevada shared their own pastoral experiences, and had a wonderful of exchange with Pope Francis. We shared our hopes, our challenges, our joys, and our anxieties as we serve our various Arch/Dioceses in this era of history.
Sitting with the Pope in this setting felt like being with a beloved grandfather, a beloved friend who himself had been through the same struggles and hopes as we had. He was so open, warm, welcoming, and invited us to share anything that we wished with him.
Pope Francis had the ability to listen carefully, ponder our views, and to respond in a kindly manner. His demeanor and thoughtfulness truly reflected the mode of discernment which St. Ignatius of Loyola taught his fellow Jesuit followers. The movement of the Holy Spirit needs to be discerned and recognized throughout our ministry.
His insights about the world and the Church revealed his profound knowledge of the complexities of life across the broad spectrum of countries. He expressed sadness over the sufferings and pain so many peoples endure daily, while always lifting up the hope which Jesus proclaimed and called us to live out.
The Successor of Peter truly carried out his role of "confirming his brothers in faith" and giving us courage to continue forward despite difficulties and even opposition from the culture.
It was not the list of topics that was so impressive; rather, the openness of Pope Francis to listen to our faith journeys, our pastoral hopes, and to gently offer his own insights from his long ministry in Argentina. The topics included the best efforts to bring Jesus to people living in our culture which at times seems so hostile to commitments and to making sacrifices for others. The longing of young people, the challenges of family life in a cyber society, how to create unity among our people in their parishes, and similar topics were met with openness and collegial response.
Pope Francis is fond of the idea of "closeness" in our lives: first, our closeness with Jesus day by day, and our closeness with brothers and sisters to Jesus.
He urged us to foster deeply "four aspects of closeness": our closeness to Jesus through daily prayer and reflection, our closeness to our brother priests and all who minister with us, our closeness to each other as those called to shepherd God's people, and our closeness to brother Bishops around the world in a new and vital unity.
An extraordinary and memorable day with Pope Francis!! Surely one of the finest Ad Limina visits I have ever experienced!!
Viva Pope Francis!!