I met the Pope

Apr 30, 2024 | Blog Articles, Uncategorized

I was in Rome in late January for a leadership meeting for the Pope’s Prayer Network [Apostleship of Prayer]. I am the national director for the USA and the ‘continental coordinator’ for North America. Fr Walter SJ represents Africa, Fr Jagdish SJ serves in India, Fr Victor SJ labors in the vast Asian islands including the Philippines and Indonesia.  

We gathered for a week of sharing graces and challenges in our ministries. We each had five minutes to share our cultural contexts— the political climate, the state of the Church, and the lived experience of young people. There is a classic movie, Around the World in 80 Days. This felt like ‘around the world in 80 minutes!’ We heard about huge parishes and growing families in Africa, of Christian persecution in India, and the struggles of an aging Europe. 

The pope confronts these challenges every day in his own prayer, conversations and official meetings. That’s why he invited us to meet him, as we promote his monthly prayer intentions. 

He was late. 

We passed through the security screening, and followed the gray stone stairs up and around, down and up again— past Caravaggio paintings, Michaelangelo sculptures, life sized sculptures of popes, and 70-foot tall frescoes of martyrs. We arrived in a large marble hall with 40 chairs facing one large chair. He was set to meet us at 9am. We sat, we waited, we fidgeted, we prayed, we sang. We glanced at the door. Is he coming? No, just a bishop heading to a meeting. At 1030am the older security guard looked at his watch, looked at us, and shrugged. His gesture said, “He’s the pope. He’s busy. Keep waiting.” We later learned that he had five meetings before ours: with bishops, ambassadors, pastors from other Christian denominations. He is 87 years old and is working for peace, for faith, for evangelization, often 16 hours per day. I fingered my rosary nervously. What should I say? What would he say? 

He walked in with a cane. 

We all stood. He had a hitch in his stride, pained in one leg. He grimaced with each step, yet he kept smiling. He passed by and I smiled, meeting his eyes. The African sister next to me smiled broadly, laughing with delight. 

He approached the chair at the front, handed over his cane and sat, breathing a deep sigh of relief to get off his feet.

He thanked us for all we do “to sustain in the Church, in the laity and also in consecrated or ordained persons – this ‘mystique’ of prayer.” He continued, prayer “gives meaning to the apostolate.” 

He finished. An assistant came to the front row, gesturing to them to stand and approach the pope. I was in the back row. Each of us had a moment to approach Pope Francis, shake his hand and exchange a brief word. I could hear and understand a few words, exchanged in Spanish or Italian: “Pray for me, I love you, Thank you.” 

The African sister was ahead of me, smiling, giggling with joy. I walked up and bowed my head. I grasped his hand with both of my hands. I said, in Spanish, “Gracias, Padre.” Thank you, Father. He nodded, “Si, gracias.” Yes, thank you. I am his brother as a Jesuit, as a priest, as an apostle of Jesus. And he is my father, a shepherd to one billion Catholics and a spiritual guide to billions more.

Apostles of Prayer: thank you!

Hear in his words a deep gratitude to you! You are his prayer network! You are apostles of prayer. You “sustain the Church” with your simple morning offering prayer each day— uniting your heart with the Heart of Jesus for the salvation of all hearts. You “give meaning” to missionaries and modern martyrs through your prayers for the pope in the heart of the Church. The PWPN meeting in Rome would not be possible without your prayers and gifts. The pope’s monthly intentions are like a compass, guiding our prayers to the Heart of Jesus.  

Since 1844, the Apostleship of Prayer has served as the official prayer group of the pope. Through almost two centuries, we are honored to serve him, the Church, and Christ our Lord through our prayers, labors, and sacrifices. 

Once again, thank you for your prayers and generosity. You sustain us. 

We warmly welcome your gifts: online or by mail, $20 or $2000, monthly or annually. 

In this season of Easter, know of my prayers for you. Each month our office staff gathers, and I celebrate Mass for you and your needs. Echoing the words of Pope Francis, I say: “Thank you.” 

In His Heart,

Fr Joe Laramie SJ

National Director

Fr. Joe Laramie, SJ

Fr. Joe Laramie, SJ, is national director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) and the author of Abide in the Heart of Christ and Love Him Ever More. He previously served as a campus minister at St. Louis University, where he earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in communications. He studied at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary prior to joining the Jesuit novitiate. Laramie earned master of divinity and licentiate degrees at Boston College. He was ordained a priest in 2011.


The Pope’s Official Prayer Network

We pray that religious women and men, and seminarians grow in their own vocations through their human, pastoral, spiritual and community formation, leading them to be credible witnesses to the Gospel.