It was on this date, 6 May 1527, almost 500 years ago, that 147 Swiss Guards gave their lives in defence of the Holy Father during the Sack of Rome. Now, each year on the anniversary, new recruits are sworn in, taking an oath of loyalty to serve the reigning Pontiff and his successors, even to the point of sacrificing their lives.
Ahead of Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, celebrated Holy Mass for the new recruits and their families, at the Altar of the Cathedra in St Peter’s Basilica.
To remain in Jesus
In his homily, Cardinal Parolin expressed the gratitude of the Holy See, not only for their “precious service,” but also the way they carry it out. Their commitment to the service of the Pope, “for love of the Lord,” requires “faith and strength of soul because, to the indispensable exterior discipline is united to an equally essential interior discipline.”
Turning to the day’s Gospel, he emphasised the importance of remaining in Jesus in the life of the Christian. Remaining with Jesus means sharing every aspect of one’s life with Him, of making Jesus the centre of one’s life. “The Lord has special plans for each person,” Cardinal Parolin said, “and there is only one way to allow Him to accomplish great things in us: to welcome Him more and more, to live His command — ‘Remain in me!’ — each day.”
The call to mission
The Cardinal then turned to the outward movement of the soul, from the internal to the external. He recalled the first Council of Jerusalem, where the Apostles were faced with the question of whether pagan converts should be required to observe the law of Moses. Their decision, said Cardinal Parolin, “is not a compromise between tradition and innovation. It is a prophetic turning point: no tradition, not even the best, can represent an obstacle to the proclamation of the Risen one.”
He invited the Swiss Guards to pray for the grace “to welcome the demanding call to mission,” to bear witness to Jesus, especially by the example of one’s life.
The identity of a disciple
“To remain. In Jesus, to proclaim Jesus. This is the disciple’s identity,” said Cardinal Parolin. The two words, “communion” and “mission,” belong to the essence of the Church. “They are the key words for us,” he said.
“Today, dear recruits, with an oath you will declare the desire to give your life for Peter,” Cardinal Parolin said in conclusion. “May it be the way by which you feel that you are missionary disciples more closely united to Jesus, like him who was the first among the Apostles.”