With the arrival of Pope Francis in America, many Roman Catholics throughout the United States and the world are anticipating his first U.S. visit, as are Catholics throughout Sedalia and surrounding communities.
What area residents may not be aware of is that one Sedalia resident has a unique insight of the Pope after his studies at the Vatican during the last four years.
Father Geoffrey Brooke Jr., associate pastor of Catholic Churches of Pettis County, recently completed his studies in Rome and now serves the Diocese, working not only at Sacred Heart but also in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sedalia and St. John’s Catholic Church in Bahner.
Brooke was in St. Peter’s Square the evening of the naming of Francis as Pope.
“I was in Rome as a student when the College of Cardinals met to choose the new Pope after the resignation of Pope Benedict,” Brooke said. “I doubt if anyone who watched on TV, the events as they unfolded truly can have a sense of the moment.”
Brooke said that as soon as his classes were through for the day, typically around noon for the morning sessions, he and his friends would go to St. Peter’s Square to watch for the white smoke that signaled the election of a new pope.
“For two or three days we would wait and look for the smoke with the masses of people there,” Brooke said. “It would be black and so we would go back to our normal routine.
“On the evening when the smoke became white, it was a raining mess, and there were tons of people screaming and crying, rushing to get to the balcony to see who had been chosen as the successor,” he added.
Brooke described the space in the square as being so loud it was deafening until Pope Francis made his first remarks.
“His first words were a request for silence and a prayer,” Brooke said. “He asked all of us gathered there to pray for him.”
“The silence in the transition was indescribable,” Brooke added. “The experience was one that speaks to his humility and his desire for all people in all walks of life to be humble.”
Brooke commented that Pope Francis speaks not of ideologies but in ways that people should be in service to their fellow man.
One of the issues Brooke senses the Pontiff will touch upon is a reminder to Americans that there is more than just us and that we need to think outside ourselves.
“The challenge is how to understand what he is really trying to say and not just to focus on how it is filtered through a sound bite,” Brooke said.
Brooke encourages others to truly listen to the message Pope Francis delivers while in the United States.
“Philadelphia is not that far removed from Sedalia, and the Pope is coming to visit our country and our culture,” Brooke said. “This is only his 10th Papal visit and so we shouldn’t dismiss it or blow it off but truly listen to Pope Francis and what he has to say.
“Everyone loves a quick sound bite and one-liners, but the world is more complicated than that,” Brooke added. “There is so much more depth than 140 characters and so I encourage everyone to read his entire Homily. They are not that long, but at times we want things so quick that we miss the substance.”
There is a tendency, according to Brooke, for Americans to misinterpret the message through the single lens of our perspective but it is important to remember the Pope knows he will be heard around the world and that much of his message is based on his formation and life in Argentina.
“I understand he will speak on the holiness of the Americas, but that is not limited to the United States,” Brooke said. “It is all of the Americas from Canada to Central and South America; that there is a connection in economics and immigration and trade.”
The hope of the visit, Brooke feels, is to help reignite the passion and faith of all Catholics to become more actively involved in working for the good of others.
“For me personally, the challenge as a young priest is to respond faithfully to my teachings and his message,” Brooke said. “We all need to hear the words of his message to better understand how we can live to make a change in the world.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484