In the wake of having hosted Pope Francis at Catholic University of America for the Canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, some of the university’s graduate students have given ZENIT a closer look at what was going on behind the scenes and what their reactions have been to Francis’ visit, before and after.
Jordan Blank, a PhD student at CUA, told ZENIT that people on the campus have definitely been excited. T-shirts with the slogan “Power to the Papal” — a play on “Power to the People” — have been on sale and as for the Mass itself, tickets had to be raffled since everyone wanted one.
“I got a seated ticket because I volunteered,” Blank said slyly. “I was assigned to clean-up crew, which may sound unglamorous but it’s actually great because that means that you don’t have to actually do anything during the ceremony. I just get to sit and watch it. … Only afterwards, I have to clean up.”
The excitement helps compensate for the traffic, the student reflected.
Speaking about Francis and her own reaction to him, she said, “I really like his openmindedness. I realize he makes some people uncomfortable but that many of the most brilliant thinkers in the Church have made people uncomfortable in their own times and then it was appreciated later on.”
She gave her impression that in no way is the Pope trying to change Church doctrine, but that he “has an attitude of focusing more on the positive than negative and has a different cultural background than his predecessors, which has a lot to do with his difference in approach, even if the substance is the same.”
Blank speaks from her experience studying in Rome, where she often saw Pope Benedict XVI, affirming that though the Popes have different styles, she loves both.
“We can love both,” she said. “They are not in contradiction.”
John Brungardt is a PhD student in philosophy at the Catholic University of America who did his undergrad studies at Thomas Aquinas College. Originally from Wichita, Kansas, John is the oldest in a family of 10.
One of the characteristics of Pope Francis that he said he appreciates most is his “pastoral solicitude.”
“Apart from concerns from across the political spectrum about the implications of Pope Francis’ writings or official actions as pope, his concern for souls is very clear,” Brungardt said.
The impact on CUA, the graduate student continued, has been great—”the excitement before and during was palpable, and the landscape was transformed to accommodate the number of guests and the canonization itself.” He noted that all of CUA was very honored to host the Pope, and the faithful and other guests who came for the Mass were equally thrilled.
“One of the topics which I had hoped the Pope would address, and he did in both his remarks at the White House and during his impromptu visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Brungardt went on to say, “is the importance of religious liberty. And again, his pastoral solicitude was evident because he chose to speak through actions, by visiting the Little Sisters [of the Poor], rather than merely talking about the matter.”
What was especially moving to him during the Pope’s visit, Brungardt shared, was the beauty of the Canonization Mass, celebrated in various languages, and Pope Francis’ words during his homily “that we must continually give of ourselves for the sake of souls, as did St. Serra.”