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Photo: L’Osservatore Romano

Brother Michael Baker greets Pope Francis moments before the canonization as Br. Scott Fanders looks on.

The Canonization: Up Close

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They expected they would be among the spectators in St. Peter's Square. Instead, they were tapped to be among Pope Francis' altar servers.

Four Marian seminarians from the United States were called upon to serve in the June 5 Mass of Canonization of the Marians' Founder, St. Stanislaus.

Yes, they had jitters. Yes, the experience was life-changing.

Here's what they have to say about it.

Brother Joe Lappe, MIC
My job was to hold the microphone for the deacon and a cardinal during the presentation to the Holy Father of the new saints. The mic was a bit heavy and awkward. I was just hoping the mic wouldn't hit the cardinal in the face. I could see the crowd. The thoughts came to me: "Wow, that's a lot of people" and, "Wow, this is really happening now." I was in awe. I realized, too, that my parents would see me on TV. It was a shock to meet Pope Francis. We were all facing the Pieta, praying the Rosary. Then someone said, "The Pope's here." He was so full of joy, a man of peace. I got to help the Pope vest! I didn't expect it. It came out of nowhere. We hadn't talked about that in the rehearsal. At the last moment, I was instructed by the MC to bring an amice over and hand it to the Pope!

Brother Michael Baker, MIC
To be called up to serve was a dream come true. We had a run-through the day before the canonization. I expected it to be very regimented and focused on the externals (do this, do that ... hold your hands a certain way). But it was nothing like that. The master of ceremonies began by asking us to pray. ... His emphasis was on the interior. The exterior is secondary. On the day of the canonization we met at the Pieta and prayed a Hail Mary together while waiting for the Holy Father's arrival. My one take-away from that experience is Mary. We were given a rosary from the Holy Father. A rosary — the centrality of Marian devotion in the heart of the Church. It was a beautiful experience, seeing how the Church sees Mary, her role, and how clearly that was communicated to us.

Brother Scott Fanders, MIC
When Pope Francis was in Washington, D.C., last fall, everyone was standing on the pew and cheering. It didn't seem like he wanted that. In Rome before Mass, it was quiet and recollected. He was preparing himself for Mass. He never lost that sense of silence about him even while he shook our hands. ... So I thought, "Wow, this is cool." But it wasn't like, "Woo-hoo!" It wasn't emotional, in that sense. I saw it as a sign of God's amazing providence that the Lord would choose me to do this. During the Mass, I found myself thinking of the heavenly Liturgy. If I feel this much joy about meeting Pope Francis and serving in the Mass, how much more significant it will be to be in Heaven and to meet Jesus Christ and to worship perfectly in Heaven.

Brother Alex Chung, MIC
The canonization of our Founder and my being chosen to serve in the Mass affirmed my vocation as a Marian. This was an extra boost of graces to help me keep moving forward toward perpetual vows, which I will profess this August. As to meeting Pope Francis, it all happened so quickly. He grabbed my right hand with both of his hands. Then I automatically grabbed his hands with both of my hands. He had a genuine smile. I could tell it wasn't just for pictures. I thought, "Here is a man like me," and yet, on the other hand, he's the successor of St. Peter. He's carrying the whole history of the Church with him. He's the Vicar of Christ, the closest we can get to Christ on earth in another human being. There were 2,000 years of the Church's history in that handshake!

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