Pardon the Interruption: Swiss Guards and Seminarians


I know - I said that my next few posts would be on the Holy Father's book (insert personal sentiment here), but this little tidbit was too good to pass up. So, allow me to forgo Benedict XVI in lieu of those who protect him each day: the Swiss Guard.

It's not every day that someone has a chance to visit the barracks of the Swiss Guard, which is composed of soldiers from the Swiss Army on special duty in the Vatican. That's right - every now and then, some young Swiss men have the chance to get away from making those handy little pocket knives and step into a role with a little more world-wide notability. (In fairness to the Swiss Army, I am not sure whether they do or do not produce the knives bearing their name. I am inclined to think not. I'm sure that they keep busy doing things of much greater value than that. But, I digress...)

OK, so here's the long overdue reality: the Swiss Guard are the pope's personal military force. They were founded in 1506 when Pope Julius II felt the need for a little higher level of security at the Vatican. The "Helvetians" (or Swiss, for the non-Latin speaking reader) were renowned throughout history for their ferocity in battle and their loyalty in service. The rest of the history is here, if you care to read it; I think it's well worth checking out. Anyways, the tradition of the Swiss Guard being the papal military force has endured over 500 years until today, and they continue to remain just as loyal and vigilant as always.

So why did I suddenly come up with all this, you ask? Well, today, as part of our orientation here at NAC, we were offered a special, "behind-the-scenes" look at the interior of the Guard complex in Vatican City. Once we showed up, we were assigned an English-speaking guardsman to provide us a tour. I have to say that being so close to that great of a tradition was a little overwhelming. During the tour, we were allowed to see the inside of the armory (where all the cool weapons and uniforms are stored), the inside of the chapel (which is located literally just next to the papal apartment) and the courtyard, where the guards practice their drills each day. The guard who was leading us was a 19-year-old young man from Switzerland (naturally?), who was only in his third month of service with the corp. He was quite knowledgeable about the history and discipline of the Guard, but it was also pretty obvious that he was new, too.

The thing that struck me the most has to do with just this. By talking to him, it was very obvious that, despite our radically different lifestyles, there was a great similarity between him and the seminarians he was escorting: both of us were beginning a life of dedication to the Church and to the Holy Father; he in a manner of giving his life for a few years in the service of the pope (and perhaps his life itself, if need be), and we in the beginnings of our time as seminarians studying to be priests of Jesus Christ. I must say, it was really inspiring to see such dedication in a man so young, but so truly intent on serving with dignity and honor. The same call is true for all of us. In whatever vocation we are called to serve the Lord, it must always be with dignity and honor, never holding back even our very lives for what - or should I say Who - in the end is truly most important.

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    # by Tara - September 4, 2007 at 12:55 PM

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