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How a postage stamp delivered one boy a dream of being a Swiss Guard
| May 7, 2013
| Carol GLATZ
Posted on 05/09/2013 5:52:11 AM PDT by NYer
By Carol Glatz
New Swiss Guard recruits leave after their swearing-in ceremony in Paul VI hall at the Vatican May 6. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- One young man's dream of becoming a Swiss Guard began with a postage stamp.
Michael Odermatt said that when he was a small child, his godfather gave him a stamp depicting the ornately dressed papal soldier "and I was fascinated by that image and wanted to know everything about the Swiss Guard."
The allure was kept alive when his older brother became a Swiss Guard and Odermatt was able to see -- during visits to Rome from his home in the northern Swiss canton of Aagau -- how a papal protector really lived.
"I went so many times to Rome to visit him that I was quite sure I would enter, too," he told Catholic News Service.
The younger Odermatt's determination came through on May 6, 2013, when he was officially sworn in as a Swiss Guard together with 34 other new recruits.
Before hundreds of family members and friends, and dozens of Vatican officials, he and his comrades took to the stage in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall with much fanfare and flair to swear to "faithfully, loyally and honorably" serve and protect the pontiff and sacrifice, if necessary, their lives for him.
To the somber taps of five drummers, the recruits marched solemnly in procession wearing their 17th-century armor and metal helmets adorned with ostrich plumes, and wielding Renaissance weaponry.
The annual swearing-in ceremony is held every year on May 6 -- the date 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII in the Sack of Rome in 1527. Only 42 guards survived. Holding the ceremony on the anniversary is meant to remind new guards of the seriousness of their commitment.
Even though they are no longer fending off pillaging invaders, service is demanding and comes with a compulsory two-year commitment.
Odermatt said one of the job's challenges is trying to convince curious tourists they aren't allowed into Vatican territory without permission. The Swiss soldiers guard all entrances into Vatican City State as well as keep watch over the pope and his residence in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
"The tourists want to enter some part they aren't allowed into and you have to say, 'No, it's forbidden to go there.' And some people just don't understand why it's not allowed so sometimes you have to be..." he said, pausing to think of the right word, "... diplomatic with them."
The other hard part of the job, he said, is sometimes "you have to stay six hours on your feet" for a shift, but he said all the other amazing experiences the job entails more than compensate for that.
The best part of his work, he said, is getting the chance to meet the world's leaders, because the Swiss Guard provides security and ceremonial services during visits of heads of state and other dignitaries to the Vatican.
"We see people you'd never meet in your normal life."
"The second best reason is serving the pope," he added.
Pope Francis met the guards and their families before the May 6 ceremony and thanked them for carrying out their "precious and generous" service with "dedication, professionalism and love."
The pope recognized the daily sacrifices that come with their job and said the strength needed to persevere comes from love and faith in Christ.
Members of the Swiss Guard must be Swiss, Catholic and top-notch soldiers.
Odermatt said they are first and foremost "security guards, bodyguards." However, there is a spiritual side, too, because "you are protecting the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church" and serving the church as well.
Groups of new recruits come in to start their service on a staggered schedule in June, November and February of each year.
When the February group arrived and the new recruits were just getting their bearings and getting used to new protocols, they were suddenly thrust into another whole new world when Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement Feb. 11 and the world's cardinals flocked to Rome to elect Pope Francis in March.
"It was amazing to be here," he said, Odermatt said.
He said chances were already slim a young man from a small city in Switzerland would find himself in Rome during such a historic transition. But not only was he in Rome, he was one of a select corps of men required to be close to the unfolding events in public and behind the scenes.
"I really can't describe it, it was just amazing."
TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events
KEYWORDS: guard; swiss; vatican
posted on 05/09/2013 5:52:11 AM PDT
To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...
Pope Francis to Swiss Guard: The Lord walks with you!
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met today with the members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. In his address to the Guards, the Holy Father reminded them The Faith that God gave you on the day of Baptism is the most precious treasure you have! And your mission in the service of the Pope and of the Church finds in the Faith its source . . . Dear Swiss Guards, do not forget, the Lord walks with you.
Each year on May 6th, the Swiss Guard commemorates the sacrifice of 147 soldiers who died defending Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome, in 1527.
To commemorate the heroic death of the soldiers, the anniversary is also the occasion of the solemn oath of 35 new recruits, which took place this afternoon in the Paul VI Audience Hall.
Dr Donald Prudlo, associate professor of medieval history at Jacksonville State University in Alabama (USA) told us more about the Swiss Guard:
For hundreds of years Swiss guards formed part of the bodyguards of the monarchs of Europe. This began in the late middle ages, when Swiss mercenary companies were highly sought after. Kings and princes soon discovered that their Swiss troops were loyal and far less open to corruption than other military forces. Their history is full of heroic stories about their protection of various sovereigns, not the least of which was their defence of King Louis XVI in 1792, when hundreds of them lost their lives defending the Tuileries Palace from revolutionaries.
Like other monarchs, the popes too appreciated this kind of dedication and incorporated Swiss volunteers into the forces of the papal states in the late 1400s. In 1503 Pope Julius II, an exceptionally able pontiff, foresaw the establishment of a permanent corps of 200 Swiss for the papacy. In 1506 the corps was formally founded, and they have defended the popes from that day to this, having just recently celebrated their 500th anniversary in 2006.
Their most famous moment in papal service came in 1527, when Protestant troops, having mutinied from the armies of Charles V, sacked Rome. 147 Swiss guardsmen laid down their lives in defending Clement VII. As a result of their sacrifice the Pope was given enough time to flee down the famous Passetto di Borgo from the Vatican to the safety of the fortress of Castel Sant Angelo. The guard has had other tense moments in its history as well, such as in 1848, when they only barely held the Roman revolutionaries back from doing violence to Bl. Pius IX at the Quirinal palace.
Though there were other papal military units in existence, such as the Palatine guard, since 1970 the Swiss guards have assumed all the ceremonial roles for papal events and liturgies and can always be seen, in their colorful ceremonial costume with halberd, flanking the supreme pontiff.
Yet their duties are not all ceremonial, they are a real military force with excellent training and modern weaponry. One can see them, in their daily attire, as they guard the working entrance to Vatican City State, the Porta Santa Anna. They are an army, bodyguard, and border protection all rolled into one.
In terms of the place of the Swiss Guards in the Catholic Church, they are far from being an outdated ceremonial body. Pope Francis put it best a few days ago. He offered the soldiers a greeting of affection and gratitude. The Church, he said, loves you so much . . . and so do I.
posted on 05/09/2013 5:52:39 AM PDT
(Beware the man of a single book - St. Thomas Aquinas)
posted on 05/09/2013 6:39:00 AM PDT
by A.A. Cunningham
(Barry Soetoro can't pass E-verify)
To: A.A. Cunningham
Thanks for posting this! I enjoyed it thoroughly.
posted on 05/09/2013 6:44:24 AM PDT
(basil --Second Amendment Sisters.org)
Comment #5 Removed by Moderator
I’m not Catholic but, that would be an amazing way to spend two years of my life.
posted on 05/09/2013 7:46:50 AM PDT
(Don't take life so seriously, you won't live through it anyway)
posted on 05/09/2013 6:44:39 PM PDT
("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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