Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis - my thoughts

Pope Francis waves to the crowd at the end of Mass at Madison Square Garden in New York Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Catholic Guy said "What you take away from this week with the Pope says more about you than it does about Pope Francis."

Well, if that's true, then I'm not sure what to think about myself exactly.

First of all, I really wanted to pay attention more this past week. I wanted to listen to the mass where Father Junipero Serra (now St Junipero Serra) was canonized. But I missed it.

I really wanted to hear his address to congress. But I only read it online.

I didn't even know he was addressing the United Nations!

And I only just caught the end of his homily at his last mass, as well as his final blessing, before leaving the United States.

Put all that together, and the phrase that comes to mind is the one about "good intentions".  (And a road. That doesn't go anywhere particularly nice.) Maybe that's why I have been close to tears all day.

It started this morning in mass. The "spitfire" was actually doing quite well - she sat with us (mostly) and minded us (mostly). But during the "Our Father" both her and her brother started acting up: he, by pulling on my earrings and trying to make out with my chin (The slobber!!); she, with the incessant coughing and dropping her Duplo blocks on the tile floor. (Note to self: Even 4 Duplo blocks are too many for a toddler in a church with tile floors.) We got to the part about forgiving trespasses and I just about lost it laughing. We had to look ridiculous - what with me getting my ear yanked off, and the husband reaching down four times in a row to confiscate each noisy block that had "fallen". I giggled the rest of the way through the prayer (my saving grace being that we were singing the prayer today so no one could me).

But then, during the celebration of the Eucharist, we sang a song that brought me to tears. I had never heard it before yet the melody so perfectly fit the words, that I had it in my heart for the rest of the day: "I know there will be a day of peace... for this, let us all work and pray." It was this thought of working and praying for the day of peace that we know will come... it so beautifully evoked the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus spoke about as both "present" and "not yet". As I held my little girl, my heart was filled with longing for this day to be realized for her sake. The song became my prayer and my tears (I hope) baptized it.

I think it fit in well with Pope Francis' message while he was here. It seemed that with every speech and action, he communicated volumes on the dignity and worthiness of each human life. Every baby kissed, inmate spoken with, political figure greeted, 'common joe' waved at - it all said the same thing: "I see you! I *want* to see you! We only have a moment... may we bless each other in it!" I have no doubt that his care and smiles and blessings and exhortations were genuine. This, I believe, is what moved me to tears as he pronouced his final blessing at the mass yesterday- I felt loved and humbled and encouraged to love better.

And then, he was gone! Well, from American soil that is. And that was when I nearly cried again. This time I was on my way to the grocery store and listening to "Pope Radio's" sign off (Sirius XM's Catholic Channel coverage of His Holiness's week in the US). One of the hosts, Jennifer Fulwiler, shared that she was also teary eyed at that moment, so I felt in good company. But I was surprised at myself. Like I said, I didn't pay attention to his visit nearly as much as I had intended (or, one could argue, barely at all) - so why I should have felt so much emotion at his departure baffled me at first.  But now, after a bit of processing, I can see that it's love. I love this man of God who has such a heart of compassion! I'm so grateful that he came to the U.S. and said the things he said, and did the things he did. He has blessed us and exhorted us to continue in the work that he is also doing: to love all, especially the poor, and to work for that "day of peace". I think that is good and true and right and I hope I will be able to live into that example that he left.

And... Lord willing, I also hope to see him in Dublin in 2018!

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