An extraordinary encounter with Pope Francis at the Vitae Summit 2022 | Courtesy Vatican News
I woke up one morning in Miami and suddenly I was scrambling to catch a flight to Rome. My phone was breaking, it wasn’t holding a charge and I refused to freak out, even when my Uber took me to a vacant parking garage that was supposed to be the Verizon store at t minus 3 hours to international departure.
There are some projects you join and there is a complete process that is organized and detailed and there are others that have the wildness of the Holy Spirit in its mystery, suddenness and the joy that leaves an indelible mark on the soul in the aftermath of the holy chaos.
It was like that with Vitae Global. Ever wake up and say “HOW DID I GET INVOLVED WITH THIS? WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?”
I woke up in Rome just like that this past August and I want to tell you how it came to be.
My new Argentinian friends with an apostolate led by Luis Quinelli were on a mission that was a “God calling” of the heart. Luis kept hearing “The Holy Father is waiting for you.” He pursued this to test the Spirit and began to talk to his team and figure out how to see if what he was hearing in his heart was real. They went on a mission to request a meeting with the Holy Father.
One thing led to another and after Luis and his team met with Pope Francis before the pandemic, the vision was quickly coming into focus for a global summit with celebrities that would be intimate in nature, profound in dialogue and a beginning to uncover new pathways to transmit the Gospel and transform the culture through the arts.
So as the Vitae Summit was being planned from halfway around the world, I keep asking myself how my involvement happened? I was called forward seemingly so fast and furiously that my trip to the Vatican hit me like a thousand splashes of cold water that I wish sprayed me down while traversing the cobblestones in the blisteringly hot August Roman days. Every once in a while the wonderment and laughter from the rear view mirror of this experience jar me with a burst of joy thinking how very good God is and how constantly surprising His ways are. He is a Father and fathers want to surprise their children.
Earlier in the year, a holy man of God who has deep prophetic gifts prayed with me along with my spiritual mother and for a few consecutive weeks was getting a recurring vision. During these moments of prayer, he kept detailing a very specific vision he had of me working “deep inside the Vatican.” I quickly interjected, “No, I don’t have any big Vatican connections..that’s definitely not about me. I don’t see that. Not it.”
Don’t put God in a box and definitely don’t buck the prophets because when they get a word, they can be really sure of it. I didn’t say too much more because it seemed so off to me that I dropped it.
God can and will do anything.
No matter how “mature” we are or far along on our journey of faith, God wants to remind us again and again that He runs the show, that He controls the pathway and that He is the gift giver. God is sovereign. So as my tiny mind could not begin to contemplate what these prophetic words meant specifically, I just pondered them in my heart and kept about my business – a busy PR business rife with deadlines and commitments, movie openings, crisis public relations, all while imperfectly maintaining my prayer life with the Sacraments, the Rosary and my holy hours – one particular hour a week that is dedicated to priests. Each Wednesday, we spend an hour with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and pray the Rosary for all of the priests of the world including Pope Francis who gets the Coronation decade, “that he would always remain under Our Lady’s Queenship.” There has been warfare around that hour, but even under great attack, and remaining firm to keep Our Lady central in the prayer in front of the Living God in the holy Eucharist, I believe it was with that obedience that I was drawn to Our Lady’s son.
On an ordinary day in July I received an email that Vitae Global needed an American publicist to help spread the message of their upcoming “unprecedented” Vatican summit with A-list artists from various sectors of the entertainment industry and from all parts of the world. Everyone on the team was Spanish and then there was me, the American. I loved everything about this. At a young age, through World Youth Day, it was imbued in me the universality of the Catholic Church – that there are no borders in the love of God and that we are ALL citizens under Heaven as one family in Christ. Where God is there is the richness of the diversity of his children. I was dropped headlong into a cultural furnace. This kind of convergence of cultures (again) personally set me on fire. Knowing that God would bring together the most unlikely spiritual family – so different and so similar – to tell a story and lead artists deeper in the intentionality to use their gift to transform the culture with beauty, truth and goodness, was a supreme gift.
Leading to the summit, I was meeting virtually with the international team, figuring out who was who, straining to understand Spanish and comprehending more of what I heard than mastering anything that I could speak – I offered my gifts and talents to connect this story to the U.S. press. Messaging, media strategy, translations were all happening and we were getting closer to the event. I saw the list of “guests” and some of the attendees were my friends and colleagues. That made this all the sweeter. To work for them essentially and make their story known.
I prayed one morning with my spiritual mother (director) who said that in prayer the Lord showed her that my travel was going to kick into high gear and the reason I needed to know ahead of time was so that I would not be caught off guard. At the time of this prayer, I was working remotely from the United States and I was, like the vision, suddenly invited to travel the country to engage the media in America. The travel request came that very afternoon of the prayer. Most of the attendees were from Hollywood and it was a story we aimed to tell here. Afterall, as Luis would say, “Hollywood is the Vatican of the entertainment industry.”
I packed for an American press tour that included LA, New York and Miami, but despite not being asked to go to Rome, God showed me that I needed to prepare and pack as if I was going overseas. Everyone around me kept saying “you’ll be in Rome.” OK, whatever. Im not sure why God always waits until 59:59:59 on the clock, but He does. A million things raced through my mind (practical things like heels, hose and head coverings), but I didn’t have time to squander my time or play around with any imagination. My clients had demands and Vitae Summit press was getting hot. I didn’t have time to think, just pack it all and go. Every once in a while, I was whispering to the Lord, “God, please let Rome happen so all the clothes I’m bringing don’t go to fashion waste.” 😍
All the prophetic words about going to the Vatican were manifesting and even until I knelt before the Holy Father, I truly didn’t “see” any of this coming. But one afternoon on the LA portion of the press tour, Luis asked if I would accompany the team to Rome and just like that, the pieces were falling into place. No one booked my return trip out of Miami and so I just said yes. When God wants to prepare your soul ahead of time, He does so for a reason. This was such an extraordinary surprise from God, one that merged my personal life and my film and media work all together. The entire experience felt like one wave of grace after another that would bring a blessing in the “now” moment and a blessing for what is coming in the future. I was told, “prepare your heart.”
I was in Rome earlier in the year for Pope Francis’ Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. That felt a little like I was traveling with the advance team ahead of this little Roman surprise. Until this year I had not been to Rome in like TEN years. I needed that March trip before this one.
I arrived safely in Rome and met several friends before the work kicked in. Once meeting up with the team, we did a site survey the day before the summit and we were able to tour the area where the historic meeting between artists and the Pope would take place. It was beautiful to step into the space ahead of time to pray over the meeting area and to invite all of God’s grace, the saints and angels and Jesus Christ to be present to minister to everyone and to drive out all evil that comes to rob, steal, kill and destroy. I prayed that the hearts and minds of the men and women meeting with the Holy Father would be lifted up and encouraged and that the Holy Father too would receive a blessing of support from his guests who enjoy high level influence in the world. Imagine this experience as a deposit of grace that would then be taken to the ends of the earth. All I could think of as I prayed was that God’s strategies are not our strategies and He moves in ways that skip outside of religious bouandaries into the peripheries. The scripture that kept coming to mind was from Romans 10:14, “How then shall they call on Him whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear apart from preaching?”
There is such a thing as a grace of a place and over the next two days of summit and entire week of Rome travel, I believe we all experienced the mystery of faith, hope, love and beauty that is the Roman experience. How can anyone ever visit the Eternal City and not have their soul set ablaze? I was in constant fire mode (because of Roman heat) and because of the Holy Spirit!
The two-day event began with a private tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. Honestly, it was the hottest I have ever been in my entire life and I wasn’t sure if I was going to melt or not, but it was an extraordinary evening to contemplate beauty and encounter each other. The publicists were segregated from the artists for part of the tour and then we melted, literally, into each other in the Sistine Chapel. I spun around with my head tilted to the ceiling and spinning slowly in quiet awe of the visuals. I’ve been there many other times, but this time, with our community, on this mission, meant so much more in this very moment. It’s like a freeze frame in my mind and embedded in my heart. Unforgettable.
The next day was the culmination of the two-day event, the portion of the summit where the artists would meet with the Holy Father at Casina Pio IV, headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican Gardens – a point of grace on Vatican grounds where the blood of martyrs was shed for the faith, where the Vicar of Christ on earth met, listened, encouraged and reminded the artists – all of us – of the particular call on our lives – that every part of our work has meaning, purpose and it it can lift up heavenward or devolve to the depths of darkness.
While the artists were meeting with the Holy Father, the press team was pushing out the story to the international press corps.
Pope Francis told the artists, “You are preachers of beauty!” And he reminded, “Beauty does good, beauty heals, beauty carries you forward on the journey.”
We all need so much healing. The world hungers and thirsts for a God that many do not know how to meet concretely. How art is able to transmit messages of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard of him or contemplated his face, is something so very mystical. The pull of the world for any of us can be very strong, and to see, know, and understand that everything we have put behind us for Christ is more meaningful, not just here on earth, but in the economy of eternal life, is a profound take away from this trip. To see these beautiful men and women be encouraged on the narrow way and to use the gifts they have been given to communicate the message of the Gospel, no matter the cost, is one they – we – will never forget.
When it came time for me to meet the Holy Father, I was a little bit frozen. I was holding my veil and one of my new Latin sisters slapped my hand and lovingly said, “no, he wants to be your friend.” I love the Catholic Church with my whole soul. I love and honor the office of papacy and priesthood in my private and public prayer time. I pray for priests and if I ever have a son, I would freely offer him to Christ in service to the Church. So many people wanted me to say so many things to him. All I could really say was that I loved him, he was prayed for and the priests of the world are prayed for each Wednesday evening in a tiny suburban parish where we give our time to ask God to pour out uncommon grace on the Church, on the Pope, on the Cardinals of the world, bishops of the world. That we pray for him by name. We pray for the lost and sinful priests, the incarcerated and the falsely accused. This encounter was a death to self and a moment to lay down all my pride and imagination of the way I thought this encounter should be or what I should say. In my weakness, wonderment, the fire of the sweat pouring down my body, and the wound up speed of it all, I didn’t tell him what I did or why I was there, but that he was prayed for, he was loved and that it was a grace and honor to meet him. He spoke to me in English and asked for prayers because “it is not always so easy.”
No it’s not always so easy. But with the extraordinary Grace of God, all things are possible, including this trip to the Eternal City with men and women that I love, adore, collaborate with and cheer on from my corner of the mission field.
Thank you Lord for this exquisite moment in my life, the new beautiful forever friendships and collaborators in mission and for always surprising me in the way you move my feet and pry my heart open to make room for the good things you want me to hold onto.
Until the next vision in the next scene in your Divine script, I’m standing by and I’ll be ready.
Praying for you,