2 October, 25 October 1980
Two charismatic groups were in Rome, each for 15 days, during the October Synod of Bishops. While there, they maintained a house of prayer in support of the work of the Synod, also offering an opportunity for the Synod bishops to experience the renewal by coming to pray with them. The first group came from France representing the Emmanuel-Fraternite de Jesus Community, while the second represented six communities from five different countries. Each group had the unique opportunity of being present at one of the private daily Massed of the Holy Father.
On October 2, at exactly 7:00 A.M., eighteen members of the French group, together with Cardinal Suenens, were led into the private chapel of the Pope and the most impressive thing they saw on entering was the Pope himself kneeling on the floor with his head bowed in silent prayer. In order not to disturb the Holy Father’s prayer, the group entered “on tiptoes”, praying silently with the Pope for about ten minutes. The visitors had been asked to prepare the readings and songs of the Mass, and as soon as the Pope rose to vest they began to sing. About the Mass itself both groups later made almost identical comments, the first calling their presence at the Pope’s Mass “a contemplative experience”, while the second told how they were struck “by this sense of worship and the Lord’s very real presence”, as they studied the way the Pope said his Mass. After the Communion of both Masses the groups prayed peacefully and joyfully in tongues. The Holy Father again spent from five to ten minutes after the Masses in personal prayer, and then greeted his guests warmly and individually in a nearby room, making each the gift of a white rosary. After the first Mass, Cardinal Suenens said to the Pope, “I hope we didn’t cause you any distractions by praying in tongues”, with the Pope replying, “No. it helped me to pray more deeply”. About the prayer in tongues during the second Mass, one of the guests commented afterwards, “It was so beautiful, I almost wondered where it was coming from”, while another told how “as soon as the singing in tongues began, the Pope’s face reddened, he put his fists to his eyes, and I thought that he was crying”.
At this second Mass, which took place on October 25, three tiny children were among the fifteen people present. One three-year-old girl greeted the Holy Father’s arrival in his long white cassock with the exclamation, “Oh, he looks like a ghost”, saying this loudly enough for the Pope himself to hear and respond with a cheery smile, seemingly delighted with the presence of the little children. Several times the Pope thanked the groups for having come to pray with him. Later a Vatican official made it know to Carlos Calvente of the ICO that the “Holy Father was very happy with the beautiful Mass and their atmosphere of deep and profound prayer. It was very good to know that these people had come to Rome simply to be in prayer for the success of the Synod”.
Taken from the ICO Newsletter, November-December 1980