College Student’s Spirit-Filled Encounter with Pope Francis

by Lucia Boyd

The first time I saw Pope Francis he was far away in the back of the spacious hall in Vatican City. Of course, I was filled with exhilaration, but I could not help but wonder at the overbearing atmosphere surrounding the pope. The building was filled to capacity with approximately 12,000 Catholics, each one desiring a limited spot close to the aisle. I was lucky to be there with my mother, but even more fortunate to have squirmed my frame through the crowd adjacent to the aisle.

And then Pope Francis approached me. I froze, oblivious to the massive crowd around me. All of the other “clutter” was shut down. Pope Francis had my full attention. Nevertheless, I felt unworthy. I felt guilty, pondering that some Catholics behind me have prayed more rosaries than I, have never missed Mass, and have not forgotten about meatless Fridays during Lent. I also did not want to be disrespectful to this holy leader. As a result, I was careful to focus on the spiritual experience rather than the superficialness of filming a perfect video to show off on social media.

I did not feel comfortable initiating contact with the pope; I thought it would be shallow and uncivil if I flung myself on him. Therefore, I just stood there in shock, shaking and smiling uncontrollably as I reached my hand to grasp his.

Right after my fingertips brushed against Pope Francis’ arm, I realized he was human. We were breathing the same oxygen and had the same gravity holding us down on the marble floor. It was truly an inspiring moment because it made me realize that my potential is identical to that of the holy man in front of me.

I am an incoming freshman in college, about to embark on the next chapter of my life filled with majestic opportunities. In a wordless milli-second, Pope Francis communicated to me the idea that my faith and future had boundless possibilities. This single interaction with Pope Francis was very similar to multiple encounters I have had with our bishop. Bishop Michael Duca is the representative of Pope Francis who spoke at Loyola College Prep (my alma mater), confirmed me, and even cooked Italian sausage with my family. This experience made me realize how lucky we are in Shreveport to have a genuine bishop who is in touch with his people. In fact, Pope Francis reminded me of Bishop Duca in many ways.

The whole morning surrounding my meeting with Pope Francis was a blur, but the one moment of contact with St. Peter’s successor was as clear as crystal. My mother even commented on how she had never seen me so authentically radiant! I will never forget this pivotal turning point in my faith or the incomparable and pure joy of this experience. Thank you, Pope Francis.

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