Thirteen years ago today: Future-saint John Paul II, future-Pope Jorge Bergolio, Archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick, and all his seminarians, including me, and a few thousand other people—all of us stood on the same stones together, embraced by Bernini’s colonnade, in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.The sun shone. The crisp air warmed. The Pope told the men newly vested in scarlet, “Prepare yourselves for martyrdom.”
Popes tend to mark two holy anniversaries by gathering their brothers around them. In the summer, on the anniversary of St. Peter’s martyrdom, popes generally convene with all the recently appointed Archbishops of the world. And in mid-winter, on the anniversary of Peter’s assuming his authority as the supreme head of the Church, popes gather all the Cardinals, and create new ones.
The cardinals under 80 years of age had an unusual meeting last March, of course. Cardinal Bergoglio lost his chance to go home. A martyrdom of sorts enveloped him. The Lord said, after all, “If you would be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me.”
Today His Holiness gathers his Cardinals around him for the first time since his election to the See of Peter. The promise of a great springtime of witness to Jesus dawns before us.
Jesus poor. Jesus chaste. Jesus obedient to the will of the Father. All of which means: Jesus wise. Jesus serene. Jesus brimming with childlike joy. Our model, our love, our strength, our Lord.
Ad multos annos, Pope Francis! Viva! We all smile together today, shepherd and sheep, because we trust the promises of Christ. The gates of hell will never prevail against us.