On July 31, 2018, Pope Francis met with more than 60,000 young altar servers who came to St. Peter ’ s Square for the 12th International Pilgrimage for Altar Boys and Girls. The gathering which is held about every 4 years, began as a meeting of German altar servers with the Pope, but has now gone worldwide. The fast majority of pilgrims are from Germany but 18 other countries had representatives there. Among those were a group of 85 from the United States consisting of boys and girls, young adults and parents from the small parish of Mary Queen of Vietnam in New Orleans. Over a year before the meeting, the idea of being the first U.S. group to make the pilgrimage was presented to Deacon Vinh Tran of that parish. Parents and kids got excited and began fund raising. They made the trip in July and and encounter Rome ’ s sweltering heat. When asked how he liked Rome, 11 year – old Francis Tran said “ Rome is really cool, but it ’ s really hot. ” Francis Tran said he likes being an altar server “ because you get to be close to God, and it ’ s a good feeling. ” He was excited about seeing the Pope especially because they share the same first name. Deacon Tran a former altar server himself said it was important for the new generation to see that serving God is no small task. He also said that the international meeting was an opportunity for them to interact with altar servers from around the world and also learn more about their faith. In addition to various spiritual and liturgical experiences, some pilgrims went on blind encounters meeting others at random to pray and play together. The U.S. group also performed a liturgical dance, a traditional fan – and – flower dance honoring their Vietnamese heritage . They were accompanied by a song titled “ The Greatest Love, a Vietnamese hymn inspired by the Gospel of St. John and a tribute to the 117 Vietnamese canonized martyrs who gave their life for their faith, the greatest love one can give. A 14 – year old altar server Gabrielle Nguyen, said despite her joy, the chance to perform in front of the Pope and 60,000 people was “ very nerve – wracking. ” Nevertheless, Nguyen said the international meeting meant a lot to her to and her fellow altar servers. Addressing the meeting, Pope Francis said everyone is called to pursue sainthood through living the Works of Mercy, though it is not for the weak of heart. He said “ the way of holiness is not for the lazy. ” In a question and answer session Francis advised the pilgrims to “ know and love the Lord Jesus more and more, ” encountering him in prayer, at Mass, through reading Scripture, in the poor. “ Even now, as young people, you can be apostles, capable of drawing others to Jesus. This will happen if you are full of enthusiasm for him, if you have encountered him, if you have come to know him personally, and been yourselves ‘ won over ’ by him. ” The pope also encouraged them to be friends with everyone, “ no strings a(ached, ” in order to be a “ ray of Jesus ’ light, ” because, he said, everyone needs friends who give a good example and who give without expecting anything in return. Pope Francis in his book entitled “ Dear Pope Francis ” answers the question that “ yes ” he was an altar server as a boy. He tells that he had difficulty lifting the heavy missal and could not understand the Latin language used at Mass, but he enjoyed serving