(Photo: Giovanni Dinatolo)

"Do not stop on the threshold”

There were 250 people from the Portuguese community at the audience on October 15. Among them were 40 university students, along with entire families. Here they recount how they prepared themselves for the audience.
Davide Perillo

Maria Seabra recounts that in those moments she was reminded of her uncle, Father João. "He often talked about that Japanese martyr who introduced himself to others by saying, 'I am Giuliano, the one who was in Rome!' I have realized that going to Rome, responding to the Pope calling, is something that defines me. It says what I am and what I wish to be." For many, the audience with Pope Francis on October 15 came down to precisely that, to the root of oneself, and how one looks at oneself and reality.

Maria was in St. Peter's Square with a nice group of friends: about 250 people came from Portugal, including about 40 university students. They were one of the most numerous foreign communities present. "There has been a great movement, people really mobilized themselves," says Sofia Gouveia Pereira, the responsible of CL in Portugal. "They have helped each other, they filled all possible gaps. Many came with their children, even four or five people per family, making great sacrifices as ticket prices skyrocketed. But it was too important, as we saw as we prepared ourselves." Meetings, readings, dialogues. Davide Prosperi's letter of invitation. All that was needed to realize something simple, but decisive: "The Pope called us by name, one by one. Christ, through Peter, has something to tell me, and He is waiting for me. That made all the difference." Before, during and even after the audience.

To prepare for the event, the young people from the CLU (CL University students) met with Monsignor Ivo Scapolo, the Apostolic Nuncio in Lisbon. "It was a moving moment," Sofia recounts. "He said this to the young people very clearly: 'The most important thing is that you ask to get to know and love Christ more. He is what interests us the most." In other words, do not stop on the threshold: Rome, St. Peter's, the beauty of the gesture... Take up the provocation of what Jesus wants to say to each of you." "It made me pay attention to what the heart of the audience was," explains Madalena, one of the university students, "It was a moment to encounter Christ." And this awareness, Sofia notes, allowed the gesture "to really become a pilgrimage. There was in it a vocation, a call."

This is what happened to Caterina, who told friends in a letter that she had had to make a decision because the audience coincided with a family wedding. And after a few days of uncertainty ("I thought that no matter what, I would have missed out on something"), she found the key: what is it that allows me to love my family and my cousin who is getting married? "And so, trusting this central point that helps me live and that has never made me miss anything, I decided to go."

The young people of the CLU were met in Milan by students from the Catholic University and hosted for a day before taking the train to Rome together on Friday night. Many spoke of being moved by that embrace. "One of them told me, 'I was in an apartment with six girls who left me a bathroom and a bed just for me,'" Sofia recounts. "'I felt welcomed, not a stranger. And this welcome made me feel invested with a responsibility: it asked me not to waste time, to be fully present." For her, this welcome was already part of the gesture."

They arrived in St. Peter's Square charged with this expectation and experienced the audience as something addressed to them personally. Maria, a university student, recounts that upon hearing the Pope's request ("I expect more from you") she perceived those words "as a grace, a new call. I found myself asking: What am I really doing with my life?" Pedro, another student, was filled with gratitude for being there, for having been called by Peter: "How is it possible that this nothingness that I am can be so precious for the history of the world?" Gonçalo, a father of five, recounted that he had arrived in Rome with a burning question, "How can I experience familiarity with Christ?" And he found himself in front of "a father who spoke to me, telling me not to waste time to live my life well."

Read also - Prosperi: a new beginning for CL

But even those who could not go and who followed online were able to share in the same experience. "A girl who logged on told me, 'Looking at the square I thought: these are my people,'" Sofia recounts further. ‘”Sixty thousand strangers, but I perceived a very strong unity because it was clear Who had gathered us.’”
Called, one by one. "On our way back to Lisbon I was struck to hear the son of one of the families who came with us telling his friends on the phone what the meeting with the Pope had been like for him," Sofia says. "He is 12 years old, but he was there for himself, too."

What about you? What did you take away from Rome? "Look, in these days I am continually reminded of the Acts of the Apostles, when the apostles leave the house after Pentecost speaking in all languages. And people are asking, ‘Are they drunk?’ And Peter says, ‘No, they are filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And he starts telling everyone about Jesus.... It is a joy because a You dominates. You feel like a brother and sister to everyone. In moments like these, it becomes very clear that the other is good because they exist, because they are there. And they have been called with you. When Christ dominates, this happens."