Hidden on the shore of an Island west of Italy is one of the Church’s secret gems, the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. This Basilica has been staffed by the Mercedarian Friars for over 675 years. This Holy Place has been visited by every Pope since Paul VI. On September 22nd, 6 months into his pontificate, Pope Francis arrived to pray to Our Lady of Bonaria. Fr Ken and Fr Tony were present and share their experience:
Dear Brothers and Friends,
Today was a most exciting day welcoming our Holy Father Pope Francis at our Lady of Bonaria shrine in Cagliari, Sardenga in which our Mercedarian Friars faithfully served for over 675 years. For us the day really began with the precious opportunity we had to bring out on our own shoulders in a short procession, the beautiful image of Our Lady of Bonaria from the Basilica to be placed near the altar where our Holy Father celebrated the Holy Eucharist with us all. What a meaningful moment it was for us to continue this wonderful witness and service to the people of Sardegna, along with this inspiring opportunity to concelebrate the Holy Eucharist with our Holy Father.
When our Holy Father first arrived, he spent a significant time first in the Basilica proper with many officials of the Diocese and of the City and also with a tender care and outreach to those having physical challenges in their lives. We were inspired by his words of encouragement to the youth suffering so much from the difficulties in finding employment and hope. Then there was, of course, the most magnificent celebration of the Holy Eucharist again with a message of encouragement to struggling youth. With the natural spontaneous openness of our Holy Father, a most precious moment was seeing him gleaming with joy as a child ran to embrace him in the procession after the Holy Mass returning to the Basilica.
In the final minutes at our shrine, there was also the opportunity soon after the Holy Mass, for our Order and leading Parishioners to spend a particular moment of prayer with our Holy Father in the Santuario next to the Basilica that is the daily shrine of devotion to our Lady of Bonaria. As he came out to honor our Lady of Bonaria with a prayer and a bouquet of flowers, we all gleamed with joy as he came down to us to greet us with his enthusiasm, waving and sharing with us all a deep sense of communion in service to our Lord.
Our Holy Father spent the rest of the day receiving many again at the Cathedral in Cagiari and later, with a joyful and spirit filled vehicle procession through the streets filled with youth, he had a dedicated celebration of outreach and encouragement asking them to see their hope is in Jesus who never deludes us and always transforms our failures into moments of growth and new life. His final word to all, acknowledging the very sad news of loss of life of Christians whose church in Pakistan was attacked by suicide bombers just a couple hours before, he called all the youth to recognize their choice between the good and violence and called them to choose the way of peace and life. We all experienced a profound sense of peace and joy in our Holy Father Pope Francis’ devotional and pastoral visit to Cagliari on the
beautiful island of Sardegna.
In prayerful union with Our Redeemer Jesus Christ and Our Lady of Bonaria,
Fr. Kenneth Breen, O. de M.
For more on this historic trip visit: http://www.romereports.com/palio/pope-francis-in-cagliari-mass-mary-teaches-us-to-look-out-for-each-other-english-11084.html#.UkDgTT9x3IU