“Pray for me.”
Those were the only three words I could understand, a short plea spoken from the lips of Pope Francis himself.
We knew he didn’t speak very much English, and for a few minutes we anxiously waited in the Vatican chambers, wondering when he would arrive and how he would address us. Watched carefully by two Swiss guards in their circus-colored robes, we paced around the room – some posing by the papal seat for pictures, others gawking at the glorious frescoed ceiling, and everyone very much excited for our private audience with the renowned Church leader.
His words were simple, and his phrase was charged with humility. Known for taking public transportation, refusing to live in the luxurious papal apartment, and infusing the Church with a call to simplicity and service, here is the holy father acknowledging his own weakness and asking for our support. Here is a man so full of prayer and blessing and baby-kissing, and yet he is asking me to pray for him.
How exactly did I get to this place? Just last week, I was in Rome for the Berkley Center’s Christianity and Freedom Conference, a large gathering of researchers and academics at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. It was a rather unexpected trip across the world. A student assistant had dropped out at the last minute, and I was fortunate enough to take his spot just one week before departure. Final exams could wait!
In addition to some logistical support, I was charged with bringing over the official Berkley Center camera, making me the unofficial cameraman for my unexpected Italian adventure. And there I was, standing about an arms-length from the Pope, snapping photos and trying to pretend like I knew what I was doing. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
Some photos from the visit:
and some other photos from around the city…