23rd July Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden

Why would I record this date as being significant? I have told this story before. But on my arrival in Rome at seminary in 1997 I had never heard of her, nor did I have a lot of time for Pope John Paul II. (Not that that would have bothered him.) But in our first week we, the first years as everyone one else was away on retreat, were asked to help the Swedish College, which is small, serve the Mass for the 400th anniversary of her canonisation. This was to take place in Piazza Farnese next to the college and where the Bridgettine’s Convent was too. Next door to us. The Pope and many other dignitaries were to be there. None of us was excited by the offer of serving Mass and even less so by the requirement of having to buy a cassock for the occasion. However the Rector begged us to do so and with bad grace we agreed. It is simple to learn how to do this as the Italians had someone at every point telling you what to do. At the end of the Mass were were about to head for the local latteria ruled by Maria (which is not just for milk but sells beer too and you can sit in and smoke too as I did in those days), when we were told to go to the convent chapel and wait. So we did and walked in on the Pope saying his prayers after saying Mass. We stood and waited and I have to say it was an extraordinary time. There was something about him, his presence, charisma, holiness, however you want to say it, that could not fail to grab you and impress you. After a while he came and shook all our hands and asked us where we were from and things like that. After that, even though we did not always see eye to eye, again I doubt that worried him, I always knew that he was exceptional and a person of great prayer and had no doubt the Holy Spirit was his guide. ( We then retired to the latteria still in our cassocks for beer and a smoke. After the Pope had gone of course.)

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