His Holiness Pope Francis knows without a doubt that Ave Maria University loves him.
Because by the grace of God, I was able to tell him. Not just once. Twice.
Thanks to the kindness of Eustace Mita, the man who spearheaded the fundraising for the Philadelphia leg of the papal journey, and Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and his wife, Dorian, Mary and I were at the airport hangar for his departure and his final U.S. event, and along the rope line as he existed the stage. We kissed the Holy Father’s ring and hand and, in my awful Spanish, assured him of the love and prayers of Ave Maria University.
I can’t say that he responded, “Wonderful. How are the Gyrenes doing?” In fact, he might have been puzzled by the mixture of Spanish and Latin that he heard from coupled with “University.” So he paused a moment before he spoke.
And then he simply looked in our eyes and asked for our prayers. Humbly, sincerely, emphatically.
Moments later, as his tiny Fiat 500 drove past the hangar, you can hear my voice on this short video clip as I yelled to him through his open window, one more time, all of the love of our entire community. The assurance of Ave Maria University’s love was one of the last of the multitudes of expressions of affection that he encountered during the scores of events and countless dignitary lines he walked during his six days in America. Our Lady made sure that Ave’s voice was in the chorus of acclaim.
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What I do know is that Ave Maria’s flag was firmly planted there, starting with the stirring musical performance by our very own Martin Doman, accompanied on stage by his wife Charlene. He sang two original songs that were well-received by the huge throng of people that had already assembled in advance of the liturgy.
The Lord allowed our group these opportunities, I believe, because we are a University after Pope Francis’ own heart: humble yet proud, hidden yet already national, rich in people, not money, and a community of joyful, intentional followers of Jesus Christ. We were there representing all of the students, faculty, administrators, staff, alums, donors, and friends.
And so I hope you will join with me and do as the Pope asked, and pray for him. Pray for him daily. Pray for his leadership as he preaches the joy of the Gospel. Pray for wisdom to guide his steps.
After this historic visit, he now understands America much better and appreciates it a great deal more.
And he knows that Ave Maria University loves him!