Honoring a Saint • Father Caesar A. Rubiano, in white, is among those who wait to pay their respects at the tomb of St. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 28.   CNS photo/Paul Haring

Honoring a Saint • Father Caesar A. Rubiano, in white, is among those who wait to pay their respects at the tomb of St. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 28.   CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Father Caesar A. Rubiano  | Special Contributor

If you have ever wondered what it means to be Catholic, you can find an easy answer on Wikipedia, in the catechism, or in a good book on religion, history or philosophy. Another way is to look at what happened last week in Rome where almost 800,000 faithful people came to the Vatican and close by, in front of 18 large screens scattered around the eternal city, to celebrate one thing and only one: our Catholic identity! 

This was supposed to be the “sober” religious event of the year to help us to understand why we are Catholics, why we have to become saints! When I say “sober,” I want to emphasize they weren’t big players, singers or Hollywood stars, being in neither concerts, games or marathons. It was only about faith.

By this “simple” event many, many, many were able to do the unbelievable… sleeping on the streets, chanting all night long, being saints and superheroes to one another, communicating in other languages without translators or Rossetas.  It was not Babel, neither drunkenness, but all spoke the same language, the one motivated by the heart and expressed by love: the children and the elderly, the different colors, cultures, backgrounds, habits and dresses.

At the night vigil on Saturday, several churches in Rome were open to all…prayer was the main appeal!!!  When one group would stop singing, another one began. Some flags were raised and waved, but without any competition. Many others were resting, not only in the Spirit but, also, in the tired bodies!

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ‘s expression could not have been more at ease and happy. I think the same feeling was shared by those in the first row, as well as the homeless man watching it on the screen at the terminal. It was not about rich or poor or middle class.  It was not about rain or sun, it was only about a feast that makes us whole!

The big winner on that day: God, who made these two great Spirit-filled men as pillars for the Church and the world. It was their desire to follow Jesus, shared by so many who were encouraged to participate with them in the Communion of Saints. But the ceremony was not just their crowning in glory, oh no, no, no.

The invitation for us is to continue walking on the same steps, to continue to bring oxygen to the Church, to open wide its doors for many in despair, sadness, or exclusion. The invitation is to continue the fight against the forces of evil and the culture of death. The invitation is to embrace each other. To the ones running away, let them know the “Papa Bueno” continues loving them. The invitation is to discover the real dimension of the person capable of love and to be loved.

The “key” word of the event was “Mercy,” the undisputed virtue that unites the four popes, as protagonists of the celebrations, that kept us vigilant for three hours and that connects us beyond time and space with God, with the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the God that gave me the answers about what is Catholic, the God that let me feel his presence inside and outside of this unique and universal world.

Father Caesar Rubiano is a priest of the Diocese who is currently pursuing studies in bioethics in Rome.