B16 gets big at Nationals Stadium – UPDATED

Did it seem to you, as it did to me, that we watched Benedict loosen up or break free a little bit at this mass? Watching him exit he seemed bigger and bolder to me, as though he was growing into his part.

I was inclined to like him, of course, through his writings, but I didn’t know if I would be put off by his manner. After half a lifetime watching the effusive, playful and outgoing John Paul II, I wondered if Benedict, in person, could manage to inspire in the same way. He does.

Benedict is shy. His body language is a little self-protective. He does not run out to meet you…instead, he draws you in, and his sweetness and transparent kindliness runs completely counter to the whole “rottweiller narrative,” which I think is taking a beating (as is the credibility of the press who repeated it ad nauseam) in the face of Benedict’s actual presence.

A “liberal catholic” friend of mine emailed: Don’t tell any of my liberal friends (that is, everyone) but I’m starting to really like the guy…

I think that sense of surprised delight is going both ways; I get a sense that just as we’re discovering we like the guy, the pope is also feeling like he likes us. I say that from an introvert’s standpoint (because I am one); it is entirely possible to love people deeply but still cringe at crowds and exposure. You can see Benedict’s discomfort a little in the way he waves – both hands up in the air, almost pushing back against all that is coming forward. I totally understand that. It is of a piece with him holding back a little while shaking hands.

But watching Benedict leave the stadium today, he seemed different – serene but also somehow larger. The crowd was pressing into him in an almost alarming manner; Benedict seemed like he was about to topple over from the waves of people surging on both sides and the Secret Service guys seemed pretty unhappy about it.

But Benedict did not seem unhappy. In a situation that would normally distress and exhaust an introvert, the pope seemed strangely bouyed up by grace, and it was remarkable to watch. People were tugging, touching, reaching out – and in the middle of it all he paused to bless a young man in a wheelchair, stopped to kiss a sleeping baby and each time he did it with such a humble and priestly mien and a manner suggesting that he was in his own little sphere, and all the urgent press of the world touched him not. It was enormously powerful for me.

Video update: Turns out the infant he kissed was Kate Elizabeth Clemens, daughter of NY Jets Quarterback Kellen Clemens, which you can see here.

Meanwhile, Benedict is talking and talking and talking. To Catholic educators at Catholic University of America, to some 200 religious leaders from many faiths, and to our Jewish brethren. He is saying a great deal and none of it is empty or insubstantial. I had hoped to have had a minor analysis of his speech last night, to the Bishops, done for you but there’s been no time. It may take weeks or months to really delve into what Benedict is bringing to America in these six days.

Fr. James Martin has the same sense I did and shares a great story.

Zoe Romanowsky tells what it’s like to attend mass with 46,000 others.

Cobb says: “Benedict continues to speak directly to me”. Seems there’s a lot of that going around!

Sisu is blogging around

Related: Benedict Books You Know you Want

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  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    I hope to find a snapshot or video of that moment to share with you.

    Here you go.

    And, it looks like a very nice park in which to watch baseball.

  • TheAnchoress

    Buster went to a game there last week and said it was great, very much like Camden Yard.

    I don’t think that video is what I meant, but thanks – great shots!

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    I don’t think that video is what I meant

    I know, I shake like an old man. Actually, it’s just very hard to keep steady at that zoom level.

    When Blogger quits acting up, I’ll post some pics of the after-Mass protesters.

  • TheAnchoress

    Heh. I didn’t notice any shaking. I just meant that shot wasn’t the pope kissing the baby! Are you going to post on being there?

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle J. Miller

    I hope that I was not the only person so affected by the sight of this superlatively priestly man – first I felt awe, then I felt a welling of emotion I haven’t experienced in a long time and yes, I’m not ashamed to admit it, tears were running down my face although I honestly wasn’t aware that I was crying. All day I have felt energized, more centered and serene and – interestingly – more powerful and focused. The Excellent Benedict packs a wallop! So why wouldn’t it have affected him in the same way that he has affected us.

    And while all this sounds all too mystical and flighty to some, the reality is that the sight of this good servant of God reminded me more than anything of who I was before the world started messing with the original article (with my acquiescence I will admit).

    So I hope that I was not the only person who felt this momentary – or more than momentary – return to a childhood freedom we thought was long gone. To feel frisky as a kid spiritually at age 65 is no bad thing! And yes, Pope Benedict has all the “tells” of a very shy person. How admirable his courage in putting that instinct to retreat aside in the service of God!

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    Are you going to post on being there?


  • jrprimm

    My wife and I were there as well and saw the “growth” you speak of…yes, he seemed to gain strength from the crowd as the Mass went along…confess I must read the text of the homily as I know it was better than I remember…his sweetness with Domingo, with those in the crowd, and the genuine love he felt for each one of us will remain with us for a long time. His final wave as he went into the dugout brought tears to both of us…

    Yes, the stadium IS a great baseball park! And a great place to be blessed by the Papal Mass! Go Nationals!

  • jrprimm

    I forgot to add that, unlike some commentators–not here–that compare his accent to Colonel Klink…my wife and I were charmed by his voice and the way he pronounced English…very sweet!

  • Emkay

    A story:

    My friend is a die-hard conservative Catholic. On the day Benedict XVI was elected, she was elated – much to the open disgust of our more liberal friends (i.e., just about all of our friends). She called me that day to tell me that for dinner that night she’d be serving wursts, ‘kraut, and German chocolate cake in the Pope’s honor. (She’s fun that way.)

    Fast forward: Today, her beloved daughter, who is handicapped and wheelchair bound, brought up the gifts at the papal mass. The Pope blessed this girl and gave her a rosary. When she tried to give the Pope a gift – a medal touched to the tomb of Mother Teresa – he blessed the medal and gave it back. (Infallible, but not impeccable, see?) My friend and her family are thrilled that the Pope gave her daughter a special blessing and touched her cheek with great kindness.

  • lmb

    I know that a lot of people have tried to draw comparisons between JP2 and B16. Most have noted a marked “shyness” on B16′s part; however, I don’t think they have done him justice. THere is no doubt that in the first few months of his papacy B16 often looked like “a deer in the headlights.” But in watching him during the Wednesday audiences over thepast year or so when he can get close to people he does. Also in theprocession from Mass at S. Peter’s he does go from side to side to greet especially children. His smile is broad and natural. So I think he has grown and is more comfortable as pope than he thought he’d be.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    If you go to an Audience in Rome, be sure to get up on the rail and bring a little child with you — and if you don’t have a little child, be sure to stand near someone who does, because Papa is sure to stop there.

    – Some station had an interview with Emkay’s friends’ daughter, but I can’t find it. Apparently, she was a big celeb after the Mass though.

  • Emkay

    Bender -

    I never watch TV evening news. Never. Except I did yesterday, as I was playing around with our remote control, and I happened to see my friend and her family featured in that interview on the local ABC station. I watched and then ran to my phone to call my friend. She was still shaky with joy and gratitude.

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