You may be aware that one of our schools was prominently featured on ABC’s 20/20 show a couple of weeks ago. At the end of August, I was making my annual Jesuit retreat all by myself at a condo in Florida that a cousin of mine generously lent to me. The idea was to get away for eight days of quiet and reflection. The material I was praying about was Cardinal Walter Kasper’s little book, Pope Francis’ Revolution of Tenderness and Love. I wanted to pray about this Jesuit Pope’s insights into our Catholic faith.
On about the third day, the telephone rang in the condo and it was a call from Tony Ortiz, president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in the Pilsen area of Chicago. He said he was calling just to let me know that ABC had contacted the school with the very novel idea that Pope Francis would pay the school a virtual visit. As original an idea as it was, Tony could only explain it to me in very general terms because ABC was purposely keeping the idea under wraps as much as they could. He very kindly told me that, although so far the plans were still very general, if anything like that were to actually happen, he wanted me to know that I was most welcome to be present at the school. I thanked him for calling and asked him to keep me in the loop as the idea matured.
He called again the next day to say that apparently the visit was not going to happen because as far as he could tell, communication between ABC and the Vatican had broken down. So the story on day two was that there was to be no visit. He called again on the third day to say that the plan was back on track, and the Pope had agreed to the virtual visit which was to be conducted two days later. So I got a return ticket from Florida and was at the school, as instructed, bright and early the next morning. So I interrupted my retreat in which I had been praying about Pope Francis’ call to emphasize God’s mercy to go to the chapel at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School where the Pope presented himself and had a very gracious interaction with a couple of our students. What a surprise that my retreat changed venues but the person whose ideas I had been praying about became virtually present. His absolute attention to everything the students were saying to him truly reminded me of Jesus Himself. That virtual meeting with Pope Francis after days of praying about his ideas was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Remember the haunting question that was so popular some years ago, “What would Jesus do?” To know the answer all we have to do is watch Pope Francis on 20/20.