ROME — A Weatherford native preparing to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood participated in the historic canonization Mass for Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.
In an interview from Rome, Deacon Christopher Brashears, 32, said he was one of 60 deacons who distributed Communion to more than 800 bishops Sunday at the Vatican for the canonization ceremony.
Brashears, a seminarian with the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said he has been studying in Rome four years in preparation for the priesthood.
He said he was moved by the throng of people in Rome to see John Paul II and John XXIII declared saints. According to wire reports, an estimated 1 million people watched the Mass, either from St. Peter’s Square, the streets surrounding it or in nearby piazzas where giant TV screens were set up.
“Coming out of St. Peter’s Basilica, the sea of people filling and flowing from the square, as far as the eye could see, just leveled me,” Brashears said. “All of these faith-filled people came from every part of the world to worship God and to honor two of His servants.”
Sunday’s ceremony was informally dubbed the “day of four popes” because current pontiff Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI participated in the ceremony in which their two predecessors were declared saints.
The moment was not lost on Brashears.
He said at one point during the canonization Mass, he was standing next to the altar, with Pope Francis in front of him and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI behind him.
“It was pretty surreal. It is the only time in history for it to happen,” Brashears said. “Pope Benedict was such a gift to the Church, the extent of which is not quite realized. He has been a phenomenal teacher. Pope Francis has been this amazing example of the expression of God’s love.”
Brashears said the day was filled with important lessons.
“Aside from this being a historical landmark — the day of four popes — the message that I took away was unity and renewal,” he said. “Both of the new saints lived for unity and renewal both within the Church and in the world. I will never forget it.”
Brashears, a 1999 graduate of Weatherford High School, is studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The seminarian, whose home parish is St. Joseph Catholic Church in Blackwell, is to be ordained in a ceremony set for June at Our Lady’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City.
Coming out of St. Peter’s Basilica, the sea of people filling and flowing from the square, as far as the eye could see, just leveled me. All of these faith-filled people came from every part of the world to worship God and to honor two of His servants.”
Deacon Christopher Brashears,