Last Sunday, Pope Francis, as the bishop of Rome, took possession of his cathedral church, Saint John Lateran. This coming Sunday, 14 April, Pope Francis will take possession of the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul’s outside the Walls in Rome.
A concelebrated Mass will be offered by the Pope, the archpriest, James Cardinal Harvey and the Benedictine monks to whom the pastoral care of the Basilica and the adjoining Monastery are entrusted. The monks are led by Abbot Edmund Power, OSB. He gives an interview to Vatican Radio (be aware, some of the abbot’s facts are wrong).
There is a historical connection between the Benedictines and the Jesuits. True the Benedictines about 1000 years old than the Jesuits but the historical part goes a bit deeper. The Pilgrim, as he was known, went to the Benedictine abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat in Spain, to make a general confession, keep an all-night in vigil before Our Lady’s altar, and to observe the rites of chivalry in preparation for his new life of being a converted sinner. There Ignatius left his sword and knife at the altar of the Black Madonna, he disposed of his fine clothes to a poor man, and adopted rough clothes with sandals and a staff of a pilgrim.
Fastward a bit. On September 27, 1540, Pope Paul III approved the Constitutions and thus the Society of Jesus was born. Ignatius was then elected the superior general and accepted the office on April 19, 1541; on April 22, Friday of Easter week, Ignatius and his six companions went to confession, offered Mass, and before the Eucharist, professed their vows as Jesuits, before Mary, “Regina Societatis,” at Saint Paul outside the Walls.
Saint Paul outside the Walls is my favorite papal basilica. In addition to being the place where the great evangelizer was martyred and his relics are venerated, there is a Marian icon that is properly venerated when I am in Rome, “Regina Societatis – the Queen of the Society of Jesus” because of a key connection with the founder of the Jesuits and his first companions, Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Saint Paul’s is also the location for the annual Vespers concluding the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. Historically, moreover, it is also the place where the Second Vatican Council was announced by Blessed John XXIII.
History reminds us that the last religious to be the Roman Pontiff was Pope Gregory XVI, Benedictine Camaldolese Monk in the 19th century.
Saint Paul, pray for us.
Saint Benedict, pray for us.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.