I, like many others, was fortunate (and adventurous) enough to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia on Sunday. Yes, there was a lot of excitement and hoopla, and yes, I got caught up in it. But I am overwhelmed still, the morning after, when I stop to think about the experience, or talk about it with others, because it was so much more than what I expected for reasons I never would have anticipated. First, there was the mere fact that we (and I believe the other million or so people) arrived in Philly, gathered for Mass, and then departed and arrived home again smoothly, safely and peacefully. As the Pope said in his homily, the gathering of so many faithful in the city was truly a “miracle.” (I have to mention this group of five college-age girls next to us who were so fun to watch because they were so excited – and I was humbled and proud of them when they knelt – on the concrete – during the Eucharistic prayer.) Second, to witness communion being distributed and received by so many gathered was truly awe-inspiring. My husband and I were originally disappointed because we didn’t make it through one of the checkpoints in time to get into the designated mass area, but then happy to get close enough to see the Pope ride by from a distance and stop at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on the corner (and clap with the many out of sheer excitement he was so close!) Still, we were pretty sure we wouldn’t get communion being so far removed. And then…priests carrying yellow and white umbrellas (communion station designation umbrellas) started parading down the parkway toward us, stopping along the way, getting closer and closer…and to see and hear the people react (“I think we’re actually going to get the Eucharist!” the girls exclaimed) and then to hold out my hand and receive communion – consecrated by the Pope – literally made me weep with overwhelming joy and gratitude. Last (but not least), the Pope’s homily made me also cry – tears of humility when he said we must serve others in the little ways like Christ speaks of in the Gospel that was read: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41 ) – and gratitude that by my side was my husband who so faithfully and humbly does this for me every day (he always makes the coffee, cleans, does laundry while I’m busy doing my writing, etc.) And how being of service and talking kindly to each other within our family is so important. I got home that evening and even though I was exhausted, I called my three children who live away from home to ask how they were doing and when I could see them next (and actually talked to two of them!). Thank you Pope Francis, and thank you God for reminding me to be of service, that our families are so important, that I am one among many yet together we are one body, and for making me proud to be Catholic and hopeful that the church is very much alive and well!
Yes, we are going to see the Pope! (This, of course, is a photo of my husband Bill and I with a likeness of the Pope – taken at our church picnic!) People have been teasing us that we are absolutely crazy to venture into Philadelphia this coming weekend to see the Pope. I have always had a big streak of boldness in me which has helped me advance in my author career and do things like take advantage of the opportunity to do a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in downtown Philly right before the Pope says mass a few blocks away, where more than a million people will be congregated! But it has also hindered me when I have forgotten to be humble. Bill has always had a big streak of humility in him, which has helped him to be a kind, gentle, loving person of service to others. He is also one of the people telling me we are crazy to go to Philly this weekend and yet he is supportive enough to come along for the ride. But sometimes he is glad (after the fact) when I drag him along on adventures he may not otherwise experience. (our trip to Italy for example!) I guess that’s why we are perfect soulmates. It reminds me that each of us was made with a unique mixture of qualities that can be used to help one another, but we need to keep them in balance. So when we are amid the throngs, trying to get a seat on the train, and an elderly or handicapped person needs to board even though we’ve been waiting for hours, I will need to lean on my husband’s humility (and kindness). But hopefully, at the end of the day, he will be glad for taking the risk and being bold enough to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. Saint Paul was a bold disciple, always speaking out. But he was also put in chains and needed to rely on others to carry his message when he was in prison. He encouraged us to be bold and humble: “Therefore, brethren, having boldness…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…and let us consider one anther in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another.” (Hebrews 10:19-25) Praying for safe and joyful travels to the Pope and all who venture forth to see him….and for those who humbly serve one another each and every day. Amen.
Being a parent, a mom, is hard. My son recently got married and I felt like part of it didn’t go so well. He got mad at me, I got mad at him…and overall I feel to some degree like I have “lost” him. We have talked since and made amends…and I realize he wasn’t really mad at me alone but was letting off steam about the whole family (and wedding drama) and I just happened to be the one closest by when he decided to vent. I know he probably felt like he couldn’t offend others in the family because he’s afraid of them, or what they would think of him. I was the “easy target” or that “safe place” to land with his feelings. Although it was hurtful, he felt like he could be honest with me. It didn’t feel good at all at the time and at times still doesn’t feel fair the way I’m treated. But in retrospect, I guess it’s the place where God wants me to be. Being a parent and bearing the cross is very hard sometimes – especially when we can see our children heading for dangerous places and want to prevent them hitting hard ground and realize we can’t…or ask ourselves where we went wrong that they ended up this way…and just want to go back to that comfortable place where we were once in our relationship and can’t find our way back there…and see that they are still testing their wings and don’t want to come back…yet. But we have to keep the nest open, our hearts open because just maybe they will want to or need to one day. Many women in the Bible and saints along the way have felt this pain and I think we can look to them for hope. This must be how Saint Monica felt when her son Augustine sinned and lived like a pagan until he was 33; the way Eve felt when her son Cain killed his brother (her other son!) Abel; or how Mary felt when Jesus, at the age of twelve, stayed behind in the temple to teach without bothering to tell his parents where he was, and they frantically searched for him. “When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions…When his parents saw him, they were astonished. ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’ ‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (Luke 2:41-52) Even Mary and Joseph were upset, probably angry, and didn’t understand! But Augustine did become a saint and one of the greatest leaders in Christianity; Eve had another son, Seth, who was to eventually be an ancestor in the royal bloodline of Jesus; and Mary, of course, although she had to bear many hardships and suffering, was the mother of our Lord. Let us pray for our children and for ourselves as parents that we may carry our crosses and be safe places for them to land.
I had the pleasure of watching my 17-month-old granddaughter Marley Elizabeth for a few days while her parents (my son and his new bride) were on their honeymoon. It was exhilarating and exhausting…a few moments of frustration but many more of delight, joy, love. I saw her blossom as she got used to being with “Mom mom” and “Pop pop,” becoming more “talkative,” cuddly, sweet, smiley and better behaved each day – even with the dog! We’ve never had her overnight before and we don’t see her that often so I’m sure she was a bit confused and overwhelmed at first…plus she was teething. But to see her eyes grow big when we went to the park to see the ducks and geese, or to hear her laugh when tickled, or watch her learn something new (I will take credit for teaching her the “head, shoulders, knees and toes” song!) or savor a yummy popsicle or be fearless (she definitely is when it comes to swimming!) or to be creative in play made me realize that we do need to step outside our busy adult lives and experience the world through the eyes of a child once in a while to really appreciate all of God’s gifts. And as caregivers, have patience, tolerance, open arms and open hearts to what children can really teach us. That’s exactly what Jesus says in the Gospels. “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” Lord, help us all as parents, grandparents, babysitters and caregivers of children remember to see through their eyes and know God truly appreciates our labors of love.