Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The Pope and His People

Whatever most Americans were thinking, I cannot say. My suspicion is that the major media outlets were as far from the average American's heartbeat as they usually are. But I noted a few things that really struck me and those with whom I personally shared the beautiful experience of the Holy Father's visit to our nation's capital.

First, I wasn't at all excited, or even interested a few months ago. It was off in the "distant future" along with next Christmas and my scheduled dental work. Things to do, for better or worse, don't make an impression on me until they are very close at hand, because so many other things line themselves up in my schedule between now and then. A few weeks out, some of us noted that we were starting to buzz about the Holy Father. The night before, laying in bed with an alarm set to 4:45 a.m., it was almost impossible to sleep. I was too excited. "Why on earth should one foreign dignitary's visit provoke so much excitement, especially in a city so jaded and accustomed to foreign dignitaries?" That's the kind of question asked frequently in the media during the lead-up to the visit. Why, indeed. If the Holy Father were merely a foreign dignitary, the excitement would be inexplicable.

Second, the media kept harping on the recent poll by the Pew Foundation as evidence that the Church in America is sagging, and thence deduced that the Holy Father had planned his trip to bouy our spirits. Quite possibly so, but that is not the picture anyone in attendance at the Papal Mass saw. What we saw was a stadium filled to maximum capacity such as it never likely will be again (not while the Nationals play there, in any event) with people cheering and screaming like very few rockstars ever experience. The gathered community had a great number of immigrants, to be sure - as the Catholic Church in America always has had. Secularists say that the Bishops welcome immigrants to fill their pews; we might as easily say that secularists resent immigrants because immigrants upset their status quo. Forty-six thousand cheering, happy people very content to ignore all the "expert advice" and gloomy predictions of the mass media must be disturbing for them. No wonder so many outlets looked for so many other angles on the story. That said, a number of media outlets did a very nice job covering the event.

Third, while the Holy Father came to preach a message of hope and to encourage us Catholics to live it in our country, it seemed like he was as inspired as were we. It was deeply moving to see how much the Holy Father enjoyed being with us, his spiritual children. He even pulled a John Paul II by going into the crowds during the Recessional at the close of the Papal Mass. It was moving to see how moved he was by Placido Domingo's beautiful rendition of Panis Angelicus. One gets the feeling that he not only loves us as an obligation, but actually likes us, enjoys us, and wants to be with us. His deep humility and shy personality came through, but he overwhelmed himself with his own joy on several occasions, throwing open his arms, even cheering. When the late Holy Father John Paul the Great died, I commented to a buddy, "I feel like an orphan now," to which he responded, "I think we all do, Ryan." Now seeing the affection of the Roman Pontiff for his subjects, it feels right to think of him as a father.

Holy Father, we love you! Thanks for coming!

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