Globe Trotters: Experiencing the Joy of Pope Francis

CUA student William Deatherage shows Pope Francis his work. Courtesy of William Deatherage

By William Deatherage, Class of 2020

Greetings and salutations from the land of Europe! If you have ever considered studying abroad but worry about missing opportunities, let me be the first to assure you that there are plenty of amazing activities and events to engage in at the Catholic University of America Rome Campus.

I recently attended a conference, Perspectives for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Love from the politics department. The conference was essentially a gathering of three hundred and fifty renowned experts, diplomats, and Nobel Laureates who discussed the prospects of eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons in the world. This weekend-long event was mediated by the Holy See, who hosted the conference in the Vatican.

While the speakers were diverse and presented interesting findings, the highlight for me was the simple action of shaking a man’s hand. Pope Francis, who spoke to a private audience, insisted on meeting not only the Nobel Laureates in attendance, but every person in the room. However, this was no ordinary “celebrity encounter.” Something was quite special. Ordinarily, when beholding the essence of a powerful person, whether it be a politician or a Church official, one cannot help but feel awe and even fear from the mere authority of them. This is not the case with Pope Francis. The intense feelings of humility and joy that emanated from Francis were unlike anything I have felt before.

He smiled at every person he met. But this was no ordinary smile; it was the joyful greeting from a long-lost brother, or, better yet, a long-lost LC friend. When I met Pope Francis, it was like I was the only person in the room. If an eighty-year-old man, most likely exhausted from hours of meetings, can carry this joyful aura into a room of three hundred and fifty people, how much is it to ask for students to be respectful of one another?

No matter what nationality, gender, religion, or sexuality, Pope Francis treated us all like children of God. This is what Jesus taught us to do. While I learned so much from hours of speakers and discussions, I feel as if I walked away with even more from a simple smile and handshake. In this manner, St. Francis’ message of speaking through actions, not words, rings true through the deeds of our Pope.

This was truly a fantastic experience. To anyone who is deliberating the idea of going abroad, I implore you to consider the fantastic opportunities that lie beyond the horizon. The best part is that I had the honor of extending the legacy and mission of the Catholic University of America to ambassadors, Cardinals, and researchers. Our vocation as students does not pause when we leave the classroom: if anything, it intensifies.

More can be found on this subject at my YouTube Channel, “DefenderofFaith01”, where you can see some fantastic footage of the event. This has been the most amazing experience abroad I could have imagined, all thanks to this school! God bless you and God bless the Catholic University of America!

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