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The Pope & Me

alec vanderboom

The Papal Mass had extraordinary moments and ordinary moments. I'm blessed to have both.

Extraordinary moments:

Holding my five-year old daughter in the air as she frantically waved a huge Vatican flag towards our Holy Father in his Popemobile. The Popemobile slowed and the Holy Father leaned out of the widow to bless our section of the crowd before the start of the Papal Mass. Seeing our Holy Father, unobstructed, shook my soul. The full force of my conversion to Catholicism hit me at once. I realized what grace it was to come home to the church, to greet the Holy Father in a reverent manner, and how it was because of me & my struggle in the faith, that my little daughter can laugh so happily under the flag of the Holy See.

It was extraordinary to ride the Metro at 6 AM this morning. First, as Anne Maria pointed out, we used a special Metro card with the key of Saint Peter. Second, we ran into my spiritual director, Father Jaffee, at the start of our trip. He gave us a happy blessing to start out our day. Third, it was just amazing to watch all these little groups of Catholics (we were the only one's headed into the city so early) grow and grow until we ran into a subway train filled to maxium capacity with priests, religious, and cheerful laity. We had to let 3 subway trains pass before we found space for our family of 4! While we were waiting, Hannah & I kept singing "This Train is Bound For Glory". We then reversed the process coming home from Mass. First there was the crush of fellow Catholics on the Metro and slowly it dispersed to fewer and fewer among the regular business folk and tourists.

Watching the dignified priests and bishops act like "little boys" during their walk to the alter. A group of bishops had to host up an elderly bishop, who had a cane, out of the dug-out entrance & it went right to my heart. First, because the bishop was walking a long way with difficulty out of such love for us and the Pope. Second, something about how they accomplished this task made them look like happy little boys, instead of serious, dull bishops. I caught their joy at being in such intimate contact with the Pope and the holiday feeling of such an occassion. After the Mass ended, the young priests on the edge of the baseball field, ran, without any dignity in their long white robes, they just ran as fast as possible to get a better view of the Pope before he exited the Stadium. I'm probably not describing it well, but the enthusiam and tenderness of the clergy for the Pope was so evident. As the mother of a squirrely young boy who spends many, many moments in the naughty chair-it gave me such hope to imagine my son tripping over his white alb in a race to say a last goodbye to our Holy Father.

Praying the Our Father with 500 members of my church and being surrounded by 45,500 other Catholics.

I put real pink roses in Hannah's hair and she made so many adults smile. The hot, hot sun made the kids sleep all through the homily. I got to truly drink in our Pope's words. Sitting with Jon, while we both held sleeping children, when our Holy Father sincerely thanked parents for their role in passing on the faith, was an extraordinary moment.

Ordinary Moments,

One of the biggest surprises for me was the "ordinariness" of the Papal Mass. For that fact, I'm so grateful. The Pope prayed my English liturgy. We sang many of the same songs I sing in my choir. My kids got restless during the same prayers. The Eucharist tasted the same. I can't tell you what an amazing pleasure it was to know that the Holy Father's Mass, with the exception of having Hymns led by Opera Stars, is much the same as I experience each day in my church. The Easter Candle is the same. The prayers of the faithful are the same. The Eucharist is the exact same. (In fact, I had a little envy watching people on the scoreboard take their communion directly from the Pope. "How cool would that have been?" I thought. Then my next thought was "The Eucharist would taste the same!")

That last sentance is a miracle to me. The Eucharist always tastes the same. For a girl who grew up on Protestent services which tended to vary a lot from Sunday to Sunday, the fact that the Holy Father presided over a similar Mass to the one I attended in my little parish church on Wednesday morning is breath-taking. Sitting in that huge crowd, I "got it." Each of us, in our humble way, in our tiny domestic churches, in our small parishes, are part of the world wide Roman Catholic church. Each Sunday, as I sit in my little church with it's wooden roof and rotten acoustics, I'm directly participating in the same Mass as happens under Michelango's Sistene Chapel. The Eucharist is the same, which means that each time that I receive, I can walk away with all the graces and uplifted spirit which accompanies as Papal Mass. This is what it means to "receive" the sacarment of the Eucharist. I'm so blessed to have been called to sup at Our Lord's Table.

I wish you all a blessed and holy day!