My pilgrimage was a special time of grace. Thank you for your prayers! I was praying for you all the time — and with great intensity at the holy sites of our salvation, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. I really felt I wasn’t making this pilgrimage by myself, or with only my fellow pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Through our mutual prayers and sacrifices, I felt we were accompanying one another on this faith journey. In this Year of Faith, I feel blessed to go back to the “sources” of our faith in the Holy Land. I know I’ll never read the Gospels or pray the Rosary the same way again. Already, my prayer has a new urgency since being on my knees in the place where Jesus was born. Since following those same roads as his first disciples, and standing in the places where they heard his teaching and witnessed his miracles. What a difference it makes to pray where his Blessed Mother watched him die and where the angels appeared to announce his rising from the dead. In these places, I sensed the reality of heaven touching earth and the divine becoming human. I realized once more the great hope that Jesus gave us when he established his Church on the “rock” of St. Peter. I come away with new joy and new desire to serve the Church’s mission — to proclaim his Gospel to everyone and to make God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. So it was perfect and providential that my journey ended in Rome, the eternal city, where I was blessed to have a private audience with Pope Francis, St. Peter’s apostolic successor and Christ’s vicar on earth. This was my second meeting with the Pope. I had the privilege to celebrate a morning Mass with the Pope back in April, shortly after his election. Our Holy Father is the first Pope from the Americas and he has a deep passion for the new evangelization. So I brought him a gift from all of us — a book on the California missions by Msgr. Francis J. Weber, our Archdiocesan archivist emeritus. I brought him the Spanish translation. And it was a joy to speak with the Pope in Spanish, which is our native tongue. The Pope gave me a warm welcome and we talked for about 40 minutes. I told him we were praying for him and that we’re all excited by his ministry and grateful for his extraordinary example of tireless dedication to the Church and the world. He thanked us for our prayers and asked for more prayers! He asked me many questions about Los Angeles. He was so happy to hear about the faith of our Catholic people, especially our young people, and the growth we are experiencing in priestly vocations. I asked the Pope if he had a special message for us. Without hesitation, he responded that we should have a great devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary. He said that if we turn to Mary, she will help us in every way and with every difficulty. He insisted that our prayer life is very important. And he urged us to continue growing deeper in understanding our Catholic faith. He said to me that we have to continue trying to be involved in the life of our society. We need new conviction that it’s our Christian duty to share the life and teachings of Jesus with our brothers and sisters, he said. We need to encounter the challenges of our society with the truth of the Gospel, and we need to be in active dialogue with the people around us. At the end of the audience, the Pope gave me his blessing and he sent his Apostolic Blessing to all the faithful of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. He asked me again to ask you to pray for his ministry. So this week, let’s pray for one another and together let’s accompany our Pope with our prayers and love. We are truly blessed by our Pope’s extraordinary energy and love. His ministry has caused people all over the world to begin talking about the Church with new excitement. That’s a sign that in our secularized societies millions are still seeking God — and they’re still looking to the Catholic Church to show them the way. This is our mission, my friends! The mission Jesus gave to his Church in the Holy Land all those centuries ago. So let’s ask our Blessed Mother to help us really hear what the Pope is saying to us. Let’s ask for the grace to have deeper love for Jesus and a new desire to bring our neighbors to know him. Archbishop Gomez’s pastoral letter, “Witness to Faith,” is available at http://archla.org/witness. Follow him at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez and www.twitter.com/ArchbishopGomez.
Most Reverend José H. Gomez is the Archbishop of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest Catholic community. He served as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2019-2022.