PORTSMOUTH — Laughter and periods of quiet and calm permeated the Holy Redeemer parish center as former Pontifical Swiss Guard Mario Enzler regaled a capacity audience with stories of Pope St. John Paul II.
The event began with an Italian meal which was followed by Enzler’s presentation to a full house. He engaged and entertained the audience with humorous and heartwarming stories. In one narrative he relayed how four of the elite guardsmen were taking a break from service and playing cards on the patio of Castel Gandolfo.
One of the young guards played the wrong card which triggered a vulgar outburst, “spicy language” Enzler called it. Suddenly, a white zucchetto (beanie-like skullcap worn by the pope) appeared in the middle of their table. Disconcerted, they all looked up only to find the pontiff standing on the balcony above them. The Pope never said a word; the pontiff let his zucchetto speak for him. Moments later the pope’s secretary, Stanisław Dziwisz, arrived to retrieve the pope’s skullcap exclaiming, “Sorry! The wind.”
In another anecdote, Enzler, who was a senior officer in the Swiss Guard at the time, was dispatched to deliver a binder to His Holiness around 3 p.m. Enzler thought that the pontiff would be napping; however, as he passed the chapel on his way to the papal apartment, he found the pontiff kneeling with his head pressed against the altar, deep in prayer. Enzler recounted that John Paul II was a very spiritual and intelligent man who favored simplicity, a quality which made others very comfortable around His Holiness.
Enzler shared ancillary accounts of the pontiff’s humility, forbearance and service to others. He also chronicled his life prior to the Swiss Guard. As a graduate student he wore his hair long and decided to work as a part-time model in Milan to earn extra money. He thought he was the “coolest dude” with his long flowing hair appearing on the runway following Christie Brinkley. Enzler was still sporting the loose, sleek hairstyle, often worn in a ponytail when his Swiss father recommended he join the military to give his life some focus.
After comparing the officer schools of the Italian and Swiss armies, he chose the Swiss Army due to the shorter training period. When Enzler arrived in Geneva with his ponytail, a diminutive officer had him stand at attention while he silently inspected Mario from top to bottom and front to back. Suddenly Enzler felt his ponytail being pulled back sharply and snipped off in milliseconds before being whisked off to the processing area. He was now just another recruit. Months later an officer/chaplain in the Swiss Army recommended Enzler for the Swiss Guard.
Additional engaging and inspiring stories were told. Ultimately, Enzler received a resounding round of applause followed by a standing ovation.
After the program, Enzler took time to speak personally with individuals, but only after he posed with the Notre Dame Lady Titans basketball team who had volunteered to bus tables at the public event. Their service did not go unnoticed. Enzler remarked, “For teenagers to give up a Saturday evening is remarkable. It is evident that they have a true dedication to their faith community.”
Positive remarks about Enzler’s talk were heard throughout the parish hall. Crystal McKenzie of Wheelersburg offered her assessment of Enzler. “He was an amazing speaker. Even our 10 year old son loved him!” she recounted. Marian Beckett of Otway declared, “He was fabulous and inspiring!” While Bill Schwamberger of Stout remarked, “My wife Debbie and I found him entertaining and illuminating. He was wonderful!”