Among the 200,000 pilgrims that attended the Inaugural Mass of Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on the Feast of St. Joseph were a small group of Australians who attended as representatives of the young adult community. One of them was my brother, a recent law graduate from the University of Notre Dame, Sydney. lawGrad had the distinguished privilege of carrying the Australian flag at the Mass, and it turns out that this flag was the biggest flag from any nation to appear in St. Peter’s Square that day! This was not a deliberate thing, but it turned out to be a fortunate thing for me, for it obviously attracted a great deal of media attention and as such I was able to watch my brother on news broadcasts even though he was half a world away!
Australian Catholics had more representation at the Mass than was perhaps widely known. The Deacon who retrieved the Fisherman’s ring from the tomb of St. Peter and presented it to the Holy Father is a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Sydney. In fine voice, the Deacon also sang the liturgical instructions and the general intercessions. Striking in his humility, the Deacon later insisted on social media that the highlight of the Mass was receiving the Eucharist from the hands of the Vicar of Christ.
Proud to be Aussie, proud to be Catholic… yet humble in Christ. This is the picture that our Australian representatives in Rome have painted.
A similarly strong sense of identity, side by side with humility, shines forth from the Holy Father’s papal motto, “Lowly, yet chosen.” Building upon this theme in the homily of his Inaugural Mass, Pope Francis called upon those who hold positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life to exercise an authentic leadership that is tempered with the humility, the goodness and the tenderness so crucial to the vocation of ‘Protector’ as exemplified by St. Joseph.
The words of Pope Francis should give great hope to Catholics in Australia. We are not wrong in looking to our bishops and priests to be protectors. Further, we are called to join them in protecting the elderly, children and the weak in our community, along with the environment in which we live.