This week, I don't have a Mass Ticket or a Press Pass. I've got a reserved parking spot and a plan to be one of the crowd in a Papal Parade. In 2008, my husband and I took our 5 year old and our 3 year old to a Papal Mass with Pope Benedict inside the new National Staduim in Washington D.C. Attending that Mass was thrilling and I've talked to so many priests and religious and lay people who all felt like our Catholic Faith took off to new heights after that awesome experience.
Next week my experience with Pope Francis will be far less dramatic. On Wednesday, we hope to bring our family of 8 to be a part of a crowd of thousands to wave at Pope Francis as he drives down a public street inside the heart of Washington D.C. I found myself attending Mass today at my regular parish feeling so excited and so thankful to God. The real drama is encountering Pope Francis inside my own heart. The Pope is the Leader of the Holy Roman Church, he's also called the "Servant to the Servants of God."
Today, I watched my parish priest celebrate the Holy Mass. Father Colin was born a United Methodist (a Protestant) like me. When I was a little girl, I used to sit in church and say the same words as contained in a Catholic Mass, "Lord we lift up our hearts to you." Yet instead of the Eucharist, the ushers served Communion by passing along Welch's Grape Juice in tiny individual serving cups to the Congregation. Now at age 40, I watched my priest put incense over the altar, and say the deep prayers of Consecration, and careful wipe out every piece of the host from the Chalice. Father's actions seemed to have a special glow today, and I gave thanks that we are both Roman Catholics now. Faith is a gift. Somehow along my spiritual journey, I started to recognize that something deeper was happening inside the mystery of the Eucharist then I felt as a child inside my sweet, but rather simplistic, United Methodist Communion Services. To me, it's as a radical a difference as small cup of Welch's Grape Juice is to the infinite mystery of the Body & Blood of Jesus Christ.
That's how I feel about my love for our Holy Father. Pope Francis is a fun figurehead. He's lively and unpredicitable. He's beloved by the secular media and non-Catholics around the world. To me, however, Pope Francis is a direct link to St. Peter. My obedience to Pope Francis is one of the defining elements of my spiritual identity. It's a thrilling experience to welcome our Holy Father into my country and deeper into my own heart.
Next Sunday, I'll be attending the same Mass at the same small country parish in Western Maryland. I'll be battling the same crisis to keep the kids still and to keep my own heart focused on the great mystery of the Mass. I pray that I'll feel a renewed sense of purpose and a union with the Pope celebrating Mass in Philadelphia at the World Meeting of Families. I hope there will be many more people sitting in the pews next to me after the seeds of welcome, mercy and joy are sown during the 2015 Papal Visit.
Welcome to the United States, Papa!