By Vatican News
As the Venerable English College in Rome celebrated the feast of Saint George, patron Saint of England, one student reflected on the seminary’s recent Audience with Pope Francis. The audience was granted on 21st April, as the English college celebrates 3 significant anniversaries in 2018. John Waters, a sixth year seminarian for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, shared his thoughts on the encounter with Vatican News.
A commitment to Christ
One key part of the Pope’s address to the seminarians focused on the difficulties of making a commitment to Christ and the Church when surrounded by what the Pope called the “culture of the temporary.” John Waters noted that many of his friends at home had difficulty in picturing the Priesthood as a life of service rather than a career. “I think it’s because that’s how our society encourages people to think," he said. "They are always looking for the next thing, the next development, the next step up the ladder. Particularly in the West we’ve forgotten a sense of anything transcendental and a sense of the things that last. I had heard other bishops and priests mention this problem before but when you hear the earthly leader of the Church describing this, it becomes clear that this is a potentially huge problem for the Church. “
The importance of friendships
Another key part of the Pope’s speech mentioned the importance of friendships in the seminary. The Pope encouraged the seminarians to nurture friendships and wholesome relationships which will sustain them in their future ministry. Reflecting on the reality of these friendships in his own journey, John said “Quite simply, without the friends I got in the seminary, both here in Rome and back in England, I don’t think I could have got this far. It’s easy to think that you’re facing this all alone, especially in the early years when you begin to discern your vocation." He continued, "Then you go to visit the seminary and you meet others who are going through the same things. These guys know exactly what’s going with you, because it’s happening to them. My friends have helped me when I was not very happy and was doubting my vocation. Then I in turn was able to help them when they went through similar rough patches, because we’re all in this together.”
Meeting the Pope
Describing the moment he met with Pope Francis, John told Vatican news how he was conscious of the enormous privilege he had in meeting the Pope, and how impressed he was with the Pope’s pastoral care and affection.
“I asked him if he would pray for my family, especially my Grandmother. He replied 'Of course I will, tell me her name.' So I told him and when I looked in his eyes there was a determination there and I knew that he really was going to pray for her, by name. That’s the quality of the man who’s sitting on the throne of St Peter today.”
As a final thought on the meeting, John reflected a little on the Pope’s role as a spiritual Father. the Pope "said that he was pleased to be able to speak to us, as a Father," John explained. "There was a warmth and affection in his voice that could only have come from his own prayer and his own relationship with God the Father.”