Do you forget to pray until you’re in trouble? You’re not alone. A lot of people are like that.
Pope Francis tells us that God understands and will welcome our tough-times prayers. All we need to do is go to Him in faith.
Do you forget to pray until you’re in trouble? You’re not alone. A lot of people are like that.
Pope Francis tells us that God understands and will welcome our tough-times prayers. All we need to do is go to Him in faith.
Visiting friends and family on Christmas … papal style.
We had a wonderful and blessed Christmas Eve with our granddaughter and her parents; mass, supper and a first-ever tour of the Christmas lights for baby girl.
Merry Christmas to you and yours! Have a blessed, holy and happy day.
Our Papa is 80 years old today.
If you would like to wish him a happy birthday, you can do so by making a comment in his Twitter account, @Pontifex, his Instagram account, or use one of the seven email accounts the Vatican created for this purpose.
I hope you take the time to wish our Holy Father a happy birthday. I also hope that those of you have fallen in to the trap of attacking the Pope will call a time out for the day and join the rest of us in sending him your good wishes.
We are blessed to have this good man as our shepherd in these times. It is foolishness not to know it.
This isn’t about me, and I’m not trying to make it about me. But I’ve just had one of those experiences when angry people hand me a totally unexpected — and unintended — honor, and I’m too happy about it not to share.
I wrote a little post saying, in essence, that no matter what the reaction to Amoris Laetitia, I was standing with the Pope and his authority as head of my Church. The basic thing in the post was simple: Pope Francis is my religious leader. He’s the commander in chief of this earthly army for Christ, and I am — well I don’t even really qualify as a buck private — I’m more of a flag waving member of the cheering section, sending the real soldiers off to battle for Christ.
I hadn’t intended to take sides in the priest fight ensuing between Pope Francis and four cardinals. But, the stuff and nonsense I’ve been seeing directed toward the Pope just plain got to me. There are whole websites with large fanatical followings dedicated to destroying his credibility as the Vicar of Christ. There are Facebook pages authored by sick little people whose only purpose seems to be to tear down, do harm and create division among the faithful.
There are people who insist on referring to the Holy Father by his birth name as a means of disrespecting him. There are nuts out there who claim he’s not the pope. There are people who say he’s a heretic and is in apostasy. They quote — and misquote — canon law and papal encyclicals to “prove” this nonsensical garbage.
These sicko web sites who have dedicated themselves to attacking the Pope usually sell things and hit you up for donations as soon as you arrive on their turf. They are obviously making $$$ out of this hate enterprise they are running, and they equally obviously do not care one whit about the damage they are doing to the Church by attacking the Pope in this outlandish manner.
This whole thing is verging on being schismatic. It is also fodder for the mentals among the flock who need to rage about something in order to shout down their inner demons. Hating the Pope has become a kind of therapy for those who are damaged and hurting from the harms this sinful world has inflicted on them. It takes the place of drugs, overeating, cutting, and a lot of other ways of self-numbing.
I have every sympathy for these people. I understand the damage that the things that are done to us can do to our lives.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to follow them down the road. I sympathize, but I am not following these hate-filled web sites, Facebook pages and Twitter communities. I will follow the Vicar of Christ.
I am, as I said, standing with the Pope. Period.
I knew when I said this that there was every possibility that I would catch the angry eyes of the blogmeisters/Facebook-pagers/Twitter-storm-gurus who are fomenting this attack on the Church and her Pope. I knew that they are always in search of a new hate object.
These people need a steady supply of fresh meat to feed the angry crowd they’ve created so that it doesn’t get bored and look elsewhere. They are making their living by chopping away at the unity of the Church. If they don’t mind attacking the Pope, then they certainly aren’t going to mind attacking little old me.
Add to that the fact that members of this nasty tribe have had some success in getting writers fired for saying things they didn’t like, and you’ve got a leader, handing out the torches, and looking for someone to march on next.
I’m not saying that my little blog post got a full-on attack. But it did register a few hits. Evidently, one of the folks who drive this hate bus against the Pope said something or the other that was intended to take a bite out of me and that resulted in a little blast of comments on Public Catholic.
The difference between me and the people who have been hurt by being attacked by these folks is that I have nothing to lose. I don’t make my living doing this. I am not ambitious about my writing. I also don’t see myself as a theologian or a Church authority.
What I am is a pew-sitting Catholic who is grateful beyond words that I was allowed in this Church. I am a sinner whose main religious claim to fame is that I love Jesus with my whole heart. I am blessed every time I take the Eucharist.
If there was some way that I could reach out and enfold the whole world in the love of Christ that I have experienced, I would do it.
This little flurry of comments and whatever the hate-meister said about me that drove them wasn’t much in the scale of things. But being dinged a bit for standing for the Pope is an honor and I am grateful to have received it.
I am grateful to be a Catholic. I am grateful, blessed and healed every time I receive my Jesus in the Eucharist.
I can’t wish anything better for anyone than that they should know Jesus and His love. It’s what I truly wish for this sick and suffering world of ours.
If everyone really knew Jesus, there would be no more hunger or misogyny or racism or economic disparity. If everyone really knew Jesus, there would be no more war, no mindless hate. If everyone really knew Jesus, there would be no one to write hate blogs and no one to read them.
But we live in the time of Kingdom coming, a time when the Kingdom is here, in each of us who truly love Him, and not here in the way we sin in spite of this love; all this in a world that still writhes in the pain of its fallenness. We are witnessing a vast apostasy, a turning away from life to death by whole populations who reject Christ in order to follow their own, broad way.
I believe without doubt that these attacks on the Pope are ultimately an attack on the Church. The fact that those who foment them claim that they are doing what they do on behalf of the Church is just old scratch, talking through people to tell his lies.
I am standing with the Pope.
If that warrants me a few dings in the shooting gallery of the internet, I am honored to be of service.
I’ve been standing on the sidelines, watching the hate-Pope-Francis movement tear into the fabric of the Church with destructive glee for a long time now.
I have absorbed the meaning of the venomous comments, malicious misinterpretations of what he says and deliberate destructiveness without remarking on it. I’ve been silent, hoping it would run its course and wear itself out, that the obsessed people who are focusing their internal rage on Pope Francis would find another target.
But that is not happening. In fact, the disrespect and hatred directed toward the Holy Father appear to be growing. It is even overtaking Catholics who normally are more rational.
This began as the usual projections of angry people who are trying to deal with their mental health issues by turning a hapless public figure into the object of what they hate about themselves. It has morphed into a growing push to convince people to ignore and vilify the pope in favor of whatever bishop, priest or lay blogger lights the internal fires of self-deification that burn inside them.
Given that, I’ve decided that I need to take a public position of my own. I want, as I usually do, to make it clear where I stand. I don’t want anyone to be confused about me and my loyalties.
I am standing with the pope.
Schismatic individualism has overtaken and is destroying simple faithfulness in many quarters of our Church. Catholics of every sort are taking it on themselves to proclaim that they will not accept the authority of the pope to govern this Church.
They are justifying this outrageous behavior by vilifying Pope Francis, using what appear to be deliberate misquotes of what he has said. They juxtapose this with other misquoted teachings from earlier popes to “prove” their point. They weave tangled skeins of canon law, misquoted papal statements, footnotes and endnotes, like a spider, spinning a web to catch its prey.
The leaders of the rageful faithful movement range from cardinals who should know better, to priests who also should know better, to bloggers looking for something inflammatory to say that will spin their view meters. The wayward cardinals and priests enjoy a kind of tribal adoration from the pope-haters.
In this upside down world, criticizing one of them results in a wave of insults and claims that the person who did the criticizing is a every kind of lowlife imaginable. This is usually followed with attempts to silence the person by attempting to get their publisher to fire them or stop publishing their work. All this is done in the name of “protecting” the Church.
The core problem here, is, as the core problem with human failings always is, a matter of sin. In our society today, slander, lying and amorality are as acceptable to most professional Christians as they are to nihilists, atheists and satanists. It just depends on who is doing it.
Atheists, nihilists, satanists and professional Christians alike loudly proclaim that what they are doing is righteousness. They are equally committed to the idea that anyone who disagrees with them is subhuman trash that they can treat any way they want.
The sole difference seems to be that when professional Christians paste a bandaid of pious self-righteousness over the oozing slime of sin and proclaim that it is, in fact righteousness, they choose a bandaid that quotes canon law or Scripture. That way, they “prove” that what they are doing is of Christ.
I have been convinced for a very long time that satan is active in our society in a way that he never dared to be in years past. Time was, satan triumphed by convincing people that he didn’t exist. Now, he’s taking off his mask and coming right out front in satanic masses and satan worshipping.
At the same time, he has, it seems to me, taken over our public discourse. There is no sin which is unacceptable to professional Christians if it is committed by someone they want to support. The election just past proved that rather decisively.
We kicked God to the curb in the name of God.
It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the newest object of hatred and vilification is Pope Francis. After all, who else has the authority, the moral and prophetic voice, to speak against an utterly amoral, the-biggest-and-the-meanest-make-all-the-rules zeitgeist? Who else besides the pope can correct this plunge into the pit by a whole society?
There is no one except the pope who can do this.
The pope is, as he has always been, satan’s great nemesis. He is the Vicar of Christ. He is Peter.
A good deal of the anger I’ve seen directed at Pope Francis is the anger of people who have been called on their sins which they have no intention of giving up. When Pope Francis speaks of the poor, the disenfranchised the littlest of these, he gets hit and hit hard by those whose real god is their politics.
These people have conflated Jesus Christ with their politics for so long, they have fallen so deeply into the sin of this idolatry, that when they hear the Gospels spoken by the Pope, they don’t change. They condemn the pope.
The latest hook to hang pope hatred on appears to be Amoris Laetitia. I was too sick to read when this was published, and, to be honest, I haven’t bothered to read it since. I think the reason I haven’t read it is because of all the crazy carrying on about it.
I opposed the notion of opening the Eucharist to people who had not been allowed to take it up until now. I wrote about it quite a bit during the synods on the family.
But I was wrong.
Here’s how I know I was wrong.
The Holy Spirit told the first Peter in a dream that the free gift of eternal life was open to all of humanity and not just the Jews. This was a revolutionary thought at the time. A lot of people, including Peter himself, had, based on their own reasoning, held the opposite opinion. But the Holy Spirit instructed Peter, and Peter instructed the faithful and that was that.
Pope Francis is Peter. He is not saying that Christ should be shut away and shared only with a special few who come to him trailing incense and wearing lace. Pope Francis is saying, like the first Peter, that Jesus in the Eucharist will be available to more of the people that He made, the people that He came to save.
That, my friends, is just as consistent with the Gospels as the prior way of doing things was. I believe that it is a new revelation for our times, an extension of the Covenant of grace.
I don’t believe this because I have had a vision or dream like Peter did. I believe it because Peter has said it.
Pope Francis is Peter. He is the fisherman.
I am a pew-sitting sinner who does not decide who may or may not partake of the Eucharist. I am simply blessed and grateful that I can go forward and encounter the Risen Lord in the Eucharist myself.
I do not have to make these decisions. I don’t even have to worry about them.
All I have to do is follow Christ and Him crucified. It is not my job to determine who gets to take the Eucharist. It is my job to make sure that I don’t walk past Lazarus.
The pope has spoken, and I accept it.
If you want to find me, it will be easy. I’ll be standing with the pope.
Above Photo, courtesy of Aleteia
Note: I’m re-publishing this because it didn’t come through in its entirely the first time I put it up. I hope it makes more sense this time around.
I wrote this a few months ago for the National Catholic Register. I think it’s worth publishing again at this time when we have been so deeply damaged and degraded as a nation and a people by the amoral cruelty of the election just past, and when our Church, which should be the lodestone that guides our lives, is at odds with itself.
I was in a special place of grace when I wrote this. Cancer was, for me, a powerful experience of the love of Christ. The graces He rained down on me during that time could only have come from a God Who truly is love.
Here’s what I wrote:
I’ve spent the past seven months in the hermetically-sealed world of cancer treatment. That world disconnected me from the other world of normal life with the abrupt finality of amputation.
One minute, I thought I was fine. The next, I was fighting for my life. The re-entry into what I just labeled “normal” life was as abrupt as the leave-taking. I arrived, not well, not even close to well, but wounded and battered from treatments that had just ended. The sights, sounds, behaviors that confronted me in this “normal” world seemed alien and more than a bit trivial.
I suppose it was a bit like a soldier returning from an overseas war. They get on the plane with sand in their teeth and the rattle of gunfire still sounding in their ears and get off a few hours later in the impersonal noise and confusion of an American airport. Technically they are home, but “home” feels more alien than the alien world from which they have come.
They are stunned. As I was stunned.
The single biggest change is not that I am changed physically, although I am changed physically in obvious ways. It’s the shift in values, in my understanding of what matters, that sets me apart from everyone around me.
Take, for instance, Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love. I think I heard something about it when I was in that other world, but I don’t really remember what. Between the drugs and the overwhelming sickness, nothing stuck except a clear memory of how wretched I felt. That, and not much else, is imprinted on my mind, in much the same way that I would keep seeing a blinding flash, even after it’s over.
I was aware, in that same vague way that I knew about the Exhortation, that there was the usual carrying on from the usual places that seems to accompany everything the Holy Father says or does. But somewhere between the words “you have cancer” and the release of the Exhortation, my relationship with my Church had changed.
That’s only reasonable, since my relationship with God had also changed during that time. I’ve never felt closer to Jesus than I did during those months of treatment. He was, to paraphrase W H Auden, my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest.God held me in the palm of His hand throughout those months, and I let Him. It was an effortless and total immersion in the love of the Holy Spirit that sustained me and washed me cleaner than clean in my soul.
I was both too sick to care about the reaction to Pope Francis’ Exhortation and too deep in the love of God to take it seriously. Now that I am slowly getting better, tip toeing ever-so-cautiously around the rim of normal life without actually diving in, I retain the profound crystallizing viewpoint that is, to paraphrase another poet, all I know of heaven, all I need of hell.
I’ve been someplace quite rare in this life. I’ve been to hell while wrapped in the loving arms of God my Father.
I want to tell you what I learned on the trip. I learned that all we know of heaven lies in the peace of Christ Jesus. There really is a peace that passes all understanding, a love that does not die, that grows stronger when we are weak. The secret to life in Christ is no secret at all. It is not built on being sinless, pious and perfect. It is certainly not built on having the right political ideas and voting correctly. You do not get to God by hating the right people for the right reasons. Rely on yourself and your own righteousness, and you will never see heaven at all.
The only way to heaven is through the Way, which is Jesus and His love. All you have to do is trust Him. That’s all. Just throw yourself into His arms and let go of everything else.
We are so grounded in this life that we lose sight of that. It’s very difficult for earth-bound creatures like us to fly. I was blessed to encounter the terror of cancer. Cancer pushed me right up to the cliff of abandoning myself utterly into God’s hands, and in the faith that came from decades of walking in Him, I closed my eyes and stepped off.
The rest is a song of floating in His love through the white water that lay ahead of me.
During that passage, as a result of that step off the cliff, I changed. The Church became, not a set of teachings and dogma, but the living Eucharist, the Body of Christ in fact and in truth.
I encountered Jesus every day, and He blessed me over and over again, while the Church fed me with the concrete love of Christ in Eucharist. I could reach out and touch Him, taste Him, receive Him physically, while He surrounded me with His loving presence spiritually.
God’s beautiful people reached out to me with letters, emails, offers of help and assistance from every direction. They, too, became the living Body of Christ and I found deep healing in their caring.
When I heard about the Exhortation, I didn’t really care what it said. Pope Francis is Peter. Me? I’m just a back-pew sitter who has no real right to be part of this beautiful Body of Christ. I am not here by virtue of my virtue. Far from it. I am only here because God loved me from eternal death to eternal life through His forgiveness and Mercy.
I am writing this post for one reason. I want you to stop and think for a moment about how much God loves you. Stop what you a doing and just think about what He has forgiven you, and how much you rely on His love and forgiveness. Without that love, without that bounteous mercy, you and I would both go straight to hell.
That, my friends would not be a harsh judgement. It would be justice in its absolute and accurate sense. We do not deserve heaven. We deserve to go to hell.
If those people who hated me back when I was doing my worst had had their way about it, God would certainly have never forgiven me. It is a verifiable fact that some of them were outraged and bitter when I converted, that they called everyone from my bishop to other members of my parish to protest and say that I should be shunned and kicked out.
But that great Body of Christ which is the Catholic Church welcomed me home and accepted me as its own daughter.
If Pope Francis is telling us that God’s Mercy extends to everyone without regard to what they have done, he is only telling us the truth. He is not changing doctrine. He is preaching Christ.
I know only too well the kind of willful sinfulness leaning on my own wisdom can lead me to commit. I pray every day that God will protect me from my own understanding, that He will not let me walk past Lazarus.
If you are one of those who is outraged by what our Holy Father has written, stop for a moment and think. When you stand on the edge of that cliff and look out over the expanse of nothingness that is your own suffering and death, the Church will be there to sustain you.
When you step off that cliff, the arms of Christ will catch you.
None of this will happen because you deserve it. It will happen because love is stronger than death, and our God is a deeply personal and infinitely loving God of mercy.
Do not begrudge other people the same forgiveness that saves you. Do not, ever, tell anyone that God does not love them. The first is not only a cruelty, but a denial of your own salvation, as if you are throwing God’s gifts to you back in His face. The second is a lie, plane and simple.
I think that when we get to heaven one of the biggest surprises we’ll have is who we see there. And who we don’t.
Trust the Church and trust Jesus. Don’t wait until one of life’s existential trials forces you to it, trust Jesus now. And stop worrying.
Whether it seems like it or not, God’s got this. If you are His, you have nothing, absolutely nothing, to fear.
Pope Francis has enacted an internal reform of the Vatican by combining Family, Laity and Life into one dicastery.
I don’t understand the inner workings of the Vatican. But looking at this from the outside, it makes sense. If I am correct, a dicastery is a department within the Curia. The ministries relating to family, laity and life are certainly bound together by common interests.
From Catholic News Agency:
Vatican City, Oct 22, 2015 / 11:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis announced Thursday to the Synod on the Family that he has chosen to establish a new office in the Roman Curia that will deal with issues of laity, family, and life, as part of his reform of the curia.
“I have decided to establish a new Dicastery with competency for Laity, Family and Life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family,” Pope Francis said Oct. 22, according to a communique from the Holy See press office.
“To this end, I have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new Dicastery. The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Cardinals at their next meeting in December.”
The Pope added that in addition to the pontifical councils for the laity and the family, the Pontifical Academy for Life will also joined to the new office.
This move is significant because it streamlines three separate offices into one; it is also meant to give greater attention to issues relating to the laity in the Church.
I was like everyone else. I thought at first that the Holy Father’s visit with Kim Davis was exactly what the Vatican has now said that it wasn’t: A form of support. Deacon Greg has the full story. All I care about is the bottom line: The pope’s visit to Kim Davis was evidently meaningless.
That means that we’re back at square zero. Pope Francis has not given us the clarity we crave concerning the family. And the almighty Synod is looming ahead like a bad dream.
Last year’s synod was such a mess that I began to feel the same way about it that I feel about the United States Congress. I was relieved when they went home without doing any real damage. Now, I’ve been reading that serious money is being used to lobby the Synod Fathers on behalf of getting them to support gay marriage. The African bishops have announced that they will present a united front on behalf of marriage and the family. May God go with them.
Meanwhile, I’ve decided in an absolute sort of way that I’m all through reading the tea leaves of Pope Francis’ various actions concerning marriage. I love Pope Francis. But I don’t — none of us do — need him to give me my marching orders on this issue. Saint John Paul II already did that for us.
The papacy is not a political office. When we inaugurate a new president, that often means that we are also beginning a change of direction for our government. But popes do not come into office with a mandate to overturn the teachings that went before them. In fact, they come into office with a clear mandate to continue the teachings of those who went before them. Pope Francis, has, for instance, reaffirmed Saint John Paul’s teaching that the priesthood is reserved to men so many times I’ve lost count.
He has not reaffirmed Saint John Paul’s teaching on marriage, or at least not as specifically and clearly. But that does not mean that those teachings are no longer valid. Pope Francis is Peter. He is the inheritor of the apostolic succession that goes all the way back to day that the risen Lord told the Apostle to “feed my lambs.” He is, in many ways, the protector of the Church’s teachings and the depository of faith which has been handed to him.
The teachings of Saint John Paul II are just as valid now as when he published them. And, since they were written down and published in explicit form, they have real weight. We could spend all day, trying to interpret off the cuff remarks and random actions by Pope Francis, but none of those things have the teaching authority of Saint John Paul’s official teachings.
I wrote about what this means to our concerns as Catholics and how we should approach the gay marriage issue for Catholic Vote.
Here’s part of what I said:
The pope has spoken about what we should do if our government legalizes gay marriage. Saint Pope John Paul II published a document in 2003 titled Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons.
I am familiar with this document because I was a Catholic lawmaker, serving in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, at the time it was issued. To be honest, I found it troubling because of the onus it put on me as a lawmaker to do things that I knew would affront my gay friends.
I loved these people, love them still, and it was tough, going against them. It cost me dearly on a personal level.
But there is nothing unequivocal about Saint John Paul II’s teaching in this matter. I prayed and blew off steam to my pastor, but there really was never a question that I would obey. The pope was quoting Scripture and talking Jesus. I had no choice.
Today’s Catholics, me included, are hungry for a repeat from Pope Francis. We want something concrete like the document Saint John Paul issued. However, it’s entirely possible that Pope Francis thinks that Saint John Paul has already said all that needs to be said and that all he has to do is make it clear that the pope’s opposition to gay marriage continues.
If that’s true, then, my fellow Catholics, we already have our marching orders.
Public Catholic reader Manny — the lucky dawg — got to go to Pope Francis’ mass at Madison Square Garden (or “the Garden” as he says New Yorkers call it) to assist in the mass officiated there by the Holy Father.
He wrote a detailed and touching post for his blog, Ashes from Burnt Roses, describing his experiences. Manny is a good person — even though he is a Yankee and a Republican — and his goodness shines through this account. He also added a full post with his photos from the mass. You can see them here.
Luv ya Manny!
Thanks for letting me share this with the rest of the Public Catholic crew.
Christ in the City from Ashes From Burnt Roses:
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
The Papal Mass, Christ in the City
Saturday was the Papal Mass and it was quite a day. I got into Manhattan slightly after noon. The information packet said to be there around two PM but I had no idea what the traffic would be like. They were saying that the city would pretty much be locked down.
What I typically do when I go into the Manhattan for something or other is drive over to Brooklyn—I live across the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island—park the car near a subway station, and take the subway the rest of the way in. Manhattan traffic stinks and parking is impossible unless you want to pay at least $50 for the day.
I did not run into any slowdowns either on the drive into Brooklyn or the subway ride to midtown Manhattan. So I was early. On my walk from the train station to Madison Square Garden, I grabbed a sausage and peppers sandwich from a hot dog stand—I didn’t realize hot dog stands sold sausage and peppers now—and a Snapple and leaned against some building while I wolfed it down.
It was pretty good, but I still felt hungry and came across a pizzeria on a side street and got a slice as well. The pizza men didn’t even look Italian–all ethnic groups can make pizza now. Mmm. I wolfed that down too. I have to say the food in Manhattan, even off the street and some side street, no-name pizzeria that’s not run by Italians is delicious. When I got to the Garden (New Yorkers refer to Madison Square Garden as “The Garden”) there were tons of people around, including to my surprise some Protestant evangelizers handing out proselytizing pamphlets, which I found kind of tacky.
I mean really, what are they thinking? If one is devout enough to go to a Papal Mass, do you think you’re going to convert because of some street handout? I was still early at around 12:30-ish but I figured I would go see where I needed to enter and if I could enter I figured I might as well sit and read rather than just walk around.
Cops told me I could not enter and that I needed to go to the back of the line, a line that was building south along the avenue. So I looked to my left and—oh—there was a line. At the end of the block I started to get on queue when the last person said the line continued on the next block. What? OK. I walked to the back of the next block, and then the next, and then the next.
I went about eight blocks down before I finally reached the end. And within short order it kept building behind me. I don’t know how far behind me it went but ten city blocks in New York is roughly a half mile, and I think it went beyond that. And then we waited. While waiting I bought a Papal flag off a street vendor, a chubby lady with a Spanish accent and spoke in broken English. My son would love it. Street vendors kept coming by with stuff. I bought from a tall Caribbean street vendor in dreadlocks a rosary made of black wooden beads with an image of St. Benedict on the cross.
I bought it for my mother, who has asked for just such a rosary. I thought the image of St. Benedict was that of Padre Pio—my mother’s favorite saint—but I realized after I had bought it I was wrong. I did read a little while standing but then I struck up a conversation with the family standing in front of me. It was a family of four—father, mother, daughter in her teens, and a son maybe around twelve. The son was in a motorized wheelchair and from what I could tell was a quadriplegic.
His hair was blond and he had glasses and a studious face. I was struck by the way his family took care of him, fixed his hair that the breeze blew out of place, adjusted his seating position, took off a jacket when it got warm. His father even spoke sternly to him when the son insisted on something or other, just like any father might with any son.
They were from out of the City, a good hour and a half north in a rural area. The father said they had to get a ride down since the special van he had that accommodates the son’s wheelchair was taller than standard vans, and, the other times he drove in, it couldn’t fit in the parking garages and he didn’t think he could find street parking. It must have cost them a pretty penny to get a specialized ride down and I assume a ride home.
The mother said over the years her son had received individual blessings from their priests, their monsignor, their bishop, and now the Pope. “Who would have thought?” she said. “We thought the Bishop would have been the last, but then the Pope came into town.”
Their church got them tickets just so their son could attend. The father did tell me they used to come down to New York City regularly to bring his son to a particular hospital for some sort of treatments. My throat just swelled with emotion for the boy.
Internally I kept praying to God to bless that poor kid. God, may he walk some day, and God, if we can’t have that miracle, may he have a full and happy life. Bless him Lord. I never did ask how the son became a quadriplegic. I assume he wasn’t born that way.
When the line started to move up we kind of got split up in the walk up to the Garden. It became a bit of a disorganized scramble and people jumped ahead and others got angry, and I saw the father protecting his son and making sure his wheelchair wasn’t pushed around by the crowd. Even a set of nuns obliviously cut the line.
Some people shrugged, some people were miffed. Later, inside, just before the Mass started I came across the father and daughter seated. I asked about the son and he said he was up at a balcony for wheelchairs with his mother. You may ask why I’m giving all this preliminary detail but I’ll come to that later. So finally I made it in and seated.
Oh that felt good. That was about four PM, so from the time I got on queue to being seated was three and a half hours. So much for being early. I could have showed up late and gotten in just the same. My back was hurting, and so were my feet.
Was I upset as some in the crowd were? No. I have always wanted to go on some sort of pilgrimage, and if I couldn’t take this burden then what kind of a lousy pilgrim would I be?
I thought for sure I would have missed the great musical entertainment that was advertised. But no, it hadn’t started yet. My seat was decent, a bit distant but facing the stage—which in this case was the altar. I was seated behind the ground level section of the Garden, in the first section of the sloping stands.
It must have been fifty yards or so, but I had a direct view and a large screen directly in front of me. Before the events started I did go outside the auditorium and look for souvenirs.
Now I wanted something for myself. I collect little pins that you can put on a lapel or fishing hat, and unfortunately all the Papal pins were sold out. “All gone within an hour,” one vendor said. I smirked in disappointment.
They did have baseball caps and several types of official rosaries, varying in price. I liked the rosaries. The cheapest one was $45 and it was beautiful and strong, so I took it. I’ll have to take a picture of it for another post.
The musical entertainment was exactly those advertised, and they each performed one song: James D Train Williams, Gloria Estefan, Kelli O’Hara, Norman Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, and Harry Connick Jr.
They were all brilliant, but I have to say that Kelli O’Hara’s rendition of The Lord’s Prayer was incredible. She was in tears at the end, and so was I. I had never heard of her but what a voice and how she communicated with it. If she ever records The Lord’s Prayer, buy it; it will be worth it.
The Pope finally made a startling entrance twenty-some minutes early than the 6:30 start. He circled the ground level section in what looked like some sort of cart. Everyone was cheering and applauding. I could see him waving, and when I caught sight of his face he had that famous smile. Then he circled back out and came in behind the Entrance Procession.
When he led us in the sign of the cross, the emotion hit me and I started to choke up. You could feel the electricity in the air. The Mass then settled down into the liturgy.
Pope Francis did the Preparatory Rites and the Collect in his broken English. The alternate readings were read in Spanish and then English, with the Gospel reading in English, Matthew 5:38-48, the passage on loving your enemies. The Holy Father than gave his homily, and he read the prepared text in Spanish, but there were English subtitles on the screen.
I couldn’t catch the entire gist of his homily, but I caught images and phrases. “Light, Christ, smog, streets.” “Living in the city.” “The people walk and breathe.” “A light walking in the streets.” “Encounter Jesus.” He was giving a homily on city life and how Christ is there amongst us in the city.
I have lived in this city since three years old, which means I’ve lived here for fifty years. City life is all I really know. I certainly have had a love-hate relationship with this city.
I couldn’t grasp the Holy Father’s exact message but I intuitively understood it. Life in the city is different. We walk by people. We fail to see the ones who are in need. We walk right by them or are scared of them. And so this is why I gave such a long introduction to this post.
I tried to capture the sights and moments of city life, the boy in the wheelchair, the family who cautiously cares for him, the rush of people jostling to get ahead in the queue, the people we bump into, the many faces we don’t even register as they stand right beside you, the frustration and anger you feel from people cutting ahead after you waited so long.
Afterwards I went and found the entire text of the homily. You can read it here.
Here is what I think is the key passage:
But big cities also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens. In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath “the rapid pace of change”, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no “right” to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly.
These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts.
Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope. A hope which liberates us from the forces pushing us to isolation and lack of concern for the lives of others, for the life of our city. A hope which frees us from empty “connections”, from abstract analyses, or sensationalist routines. A hope which is unafraid of involvement, which acts as a leaven wherever we happen to live and work. A hope which makes us see, even in the midst of smog, the presence of God as he continues to walk the streets of our city. Because God is in the city.
What is it like, this light travelling through our streets? How do we encounter God, who lives with us amid the smog of our cities? How do we encounter Jesus, alive and at work in the daily life of our multicultural cities? And then he implored us to go out and embrace the city and all its inhabitants.
Prince of Peace. Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side. He frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness, and brings us to the school of encounter. He removes us from the fray of competition and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters.
God is living in our cities. The Church is living in our cities. God and the Church living in our cities want to be like yeast in the dough, to relate to everyone, to stand at everyone’s side, proclaiming the marvels of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. And we, as Christians, are witnesses to this.
The media is obsessed with the Holy Father’s political issues, and I wish the Pope wouldn’t thrust himself so directly into politics. But that’s him, for better or worse. What gets obscured by his political message is that such a fine pastoral message as this gets lost.
The metaphors, the similes, the imagery, this was a brilliant homily, one of the best I’ve ever heard. I now recall that Pope Francis, when he was still Cardinal Bergoglio, was from Buenos Aries, the large city of Argentina. I remember a picture of him riding in anonymity on the subway. He knows the city. He’s from the city.
His homily made me love New York City in a way I have never loved it before. I wondered how they would do communion for some 20,000 people. If you look behind the altar you’ll see what must be over a hundred men in white robes. Those are all priests and deacons. The communion lines all proceeded out the auditorium and then circled back, so that it went remarkably smooth.
But the height of the Mass must have been when just before Dismissal Cardinal Dolan gave a remarkable tribute to Papa Francesco. You can see the entire Mass on this video, but go to the 1:38:00 to see the tribute and the wonderful standing ovation. It was a great moment.
This was Pope Francis tweet to the world today. It says it all, doesn’t it?
With my heartfelt thanks. May the love of Christ always guide the American people! #GodBlessAmerica
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