What would you do if you were given a mere 10-minutes’ notice that the Pope was coming to visit your home? That’s what happened this morning to the archpriest and canons of St. Mary Major Basilica.
As promised, Pope Francis began his papacy by entrusting it, and the Church, to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Entering inconspicuously (or as inconspicuously as a Pope can) through a side door, the Pontiff humbly placed a bouquet of flowers on the altar before the famed icon of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which is known as the Salus Populi Romani, or Protectress of the Roman People. Head bowed, he remained there in prayer for half an hour. The Salus Populi Romani is the oldest known icon of Mary; it’s believed to have been painted by St. Luke.
Being of a strong Marian spirituality myself, I am ecstatic to have a Holy Father who is so obviously devoted to the Blessed Mother. The fact that, less than 12 hours after his election, he hastened to Mary for intercession and guidance, gives me great hope for this papacy and for the future of the Church. I especially love the childlike, tender way in which he brings the flowers to the altar, and places them so lovingly before his Mother. If this had been a public event, I would have been skeptical. But, this was a private, unannounced trip and was certainly not put on for show. What happened this morning in St. Mary Major was a new Pope seeking solace and encouragement from the Mother of the Church.
I think we, as laity, clergy and religious, should follow Pope Francis’ example, and in a simple, childlike way, hasten to Mary and offer her our spiritual flowers, asking her intercession and guidance for the Pope and for the entire Church.