A Papal Visit to any country comes with a long list of preparations and precautions to ensure that it goes off without a hitch. Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last week was no exception. Many months and countless hours went into the planning of his three city tour by hundreds of people. As we look back on this historic visit, we know that it truly was overall a successful visit.
Emotions come with any Papal Visit, and again this past week was no exception. Everywhere that our Holy Father went, he was greeted with tremendous emotion from those he encountered. Whether it was the faithful at the Canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, members of Congress, the families at the 9/11 memorial, immigrant families at Independence Mall, the prisoners of the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, the World Meeting of Families attendees, schoolchildren at the airports, or dozens of Bishops, Priests, and consecrated men and women religious, everyone seemed to have a powerful experience. Even though I was present at the Canonization Mass, my emotions surfaced later as I watched the Holy Father’s address to Congress. Even from my own home, his words and message brought me to tears and gave me hope that those representing us politically would take his words to heart.
I think that perhaps these powerful emotions have much to do with the distance that the Pope usually has from us here in the United States. While Catholics (and many non-Catholics) look to the Holy Father for guidance, his physical distance from us makes it difficult for him to elicit palpable emotions. By bringing his message directly to us, both in word and deed, Pope Francis makes us stop and take in the moment--letting us find the joy within us. Oftentimes this manifests itself in tears--not tears of sadness but tears of joy. This joy stems from the knowledge that Christ’s vicar is here among us, showing us that no matter how important we may think he is—he is still one of us.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has indicated that the Holy Father’s visit should be more than a celebration; it should be an encounter. Over these last few days, encounters with the Holy Father have changed the lives of so many - not just those that he personally met. His message of love is one that resonated with the thousands of people that came to catch a glimpse of him. This message is one that we must continue to spread. We must take the emotion that was brought to the surface and continue to help the Holy Father spread his message of love for all people and our common home. We must bring this encounter to others.
In his homily at the Canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, Pope Francis asked us to move forward. In his homily at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, he reminded us that we must be missionary disciples:
"One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world.”
Pope Francis is asking us to act, to show others that our mission in life is love for all. The emotions that we experienced while he was here should not fall away now that he is gone. Together let us take the emotion that we had while he was here and allow it to permeate our lives and impel us to live out the charge he has given us.