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Pope Francis in Philadelphia—Day 1...

Posted on Sep 27, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Remaining True to Our Founding Principles

After day 1 of Pope Francis in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love was certainly not disappointed. Nor did his seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy wane. After remarkable trips to both our nation’s capital and New York City, the indestructible Francis seemed more in his element.

In D.C., Francis spoke English often. In New York, he spoke Spanish, but was more formal at the UN than in Harlem. Each day, his heart seemed perfectly set for wherever he was, but his eyes seemed to tell a different story. Pope Francis prefers to look us in the eyes as humans. He revels in shaking hands, looking close, saying a blessing. He seems most at ease when blessing the disabled or a child.

Upon his arrival, after one such incident on the way from the airport, we heard the pope give Mass at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul to a crowd of 2,000. During his homily, he reminded the attendees of their faith and the contributions it allows them to make.

“I would like to think, though, that the history of the Church in this city and state is really a story not about building walls, but about breaking them down. It is a story about generation after generation of committed Catholics going out to the peripheries, and building communities of worship, education, charity and service to the larger society,” he said.

Then it was on to a respite and, later, to an address at the famed Independence Hall. The city seemed abuzz despite overwhelming security and an ever-shifting labyrinth of road and sidewalk openings and closings.

Pope Francis seems ever-ready to gently remind Americans of where we came from and why it is important to the globe: “We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans. This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed.”

But that wasn’t all. The pontiff had a round of improvisation ready for us. At the Festival of Faiths, his prepared remarks were tossed out the window. “Beauty leads us to God,” were his first remarks after thanking the artists present. He went on: “In the family, truth, goodness and beauty can grow.”

Notable Quotes from Day 4

Homily at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

“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. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.”

Independence Hall

“The Quakers who founded Philadelphia were inspired by a profound evangelical sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a community united by brotherly love. This conviction led them to found a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. That sense of fraternal concern for the dignity of all, especially the weak and the vulnerable, became an essential part of the American spirit. During his visit to the United States in 1987, Saint John Paul II paid moving homage to this, reminding all Americans that: “The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.”

Festival of Families

“Two things we really have to take care of: the children and the grandparents. The children are the future. The grandparents are the living memory of the family….They transmitted the faith to us.”

The Crowd Reaction from Day 4

The mood on the streets of Philadelphia seemed vibrant and reverent. Although the locals weren’t happy about some of the dramatic changes made to the city, they seemed willing to play along given the historic nature of the pope’s visit.

Thousands were allowed inside the Basilica for Mass. Thousands more watched outside. As is often the case in America, the most passionate members of the faithful crowds were chanting “Papa, Papa, Papa!” They seemed overwhelmed by his presence and celebratory in the moments of his arrival or departure.

These voices of the faithful were with Francis all along his first day in Philadelphia, seeming to bolster his energy more and more instead of the opposite for his 78-year-old body.

Though the security is overwhelming in the city and many local businesses were slower than usual during the day, the mood of the locals seemed to rise as the roads began to open. At the end of the night, the entire city seemed ready to celebrate.

Let’s pray that, as his visit ends, America will retain the words and spirit of Pope Francis long after he leaves.

The post Pope Francis in Philadelphia—Day 1 appeared first on American Catholic Blog.

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Pope Francis in Philadelphia—Day 1...

Posted on Sep 27, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Remaining True to Our Founding Principles

After day 1 of Pope Francis in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love was certainly not disappointed. Nor did his seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy wane. After remarkable trips to both our nation’s capital and New York City, the indestructible Francis seemed more in his element.

In D.C., Francis spoke English often. In New York, he spoke Spanish, but was more formal at the UN than in Harlem. Each day, his heart seemed perfectly set for wherever he was, but his eyes seemed to tell a different story. Pope Francis prefers to look us in the eyes as humans. He revels in shaking hands, looking close, saying a blessing. He seems most at ease when blessing the disabled or a child.

Upon his arrival, after one such incident on the way from the airport, we heard the pope give Mass at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul to a crowd of 2,000. During his homily, he reminded the attendees of their faith and the contributions it allows them to make.

“I would like to think, though, that the history of the Church in this city and state is really a story not about building walls, but about breaking them down. It is a story about generation after generation of committed Catholics going out to the peripheries, and building communities of worship, education, charity and service to the larger society,” he said.

Then it was on to a respite and, later, to an address at the famed Independence Hall. The city seemed abuzz despite overwhelming security and an ever-shifting labyrinth of road and sidewalk openings and closings.

Pope Francis seems ever-ready to gently remind Americans of where we came from and why it is important to the globe: “We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans. This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed.”

But that wasn’t all. The pontiff had a round of improvisation ready for us. At the Festival of Faiths, his prepared remarks were tossed out the window. “Beauty leads us to God,” were his first remarks after thanking the artists present. He went on: “In the family, truth, goodness and beauty can grow.”

Notable Quotes from Day 4

Homily at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

“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. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.”

Independence Hall

“The Quakers who founded Philadelphia were inspired by a profound evangelical sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a community united by brotherly love. This conviction led them to found a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. That sense of fraternal concern for the dignity of all, especially the weak and the vulnerable, became an essential part of the American spirit. During his visit to the United States in 1987, Saint John Paul II paid moving homage to this, reminding all Americans that: “The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.”

Festival of Families

“Two things we really have to take care of: the children and the grandparents. The children are the future. The grandparents are the living memory of the family….They transmitted the faith to us.”

The Crowd Reaction from Day 4

The mood on the streets of Philadelphia seemed vibrant and reverent. Although the locals weren’t happy about some of the dramatic changes made to the city, they seemed willing to play along given the historic nature of the pope’s visit.

Thousands were allowed inside the Basilica for Mass. Thousands more watched outside. As is often the case in America, the most passionate members of the faithful crowds were chanting “Papa, Papa, Papa!” They seemed overwhelmed by his presence and celebratory in the moments of his arrival or departure.

These voices of the faithful were with Francis all along his first day in Philadelphia, seeming to bolster his energy more and more instead of the opposite for his 78-year-old body.

Though the security is overwhelming in the city and many local businesses were slower than usual during the day, the mood of the locals seemed to rise as the roads began to open. At the end of the night, the entire city seemed ready to celebrate.

Let’s pray that, as his visit ends, America will retain the words and spirit of Pope Francis long after he leaves.

The post Pope Francis in Philadelphia—Day 1 appeared first on American Catholic Blog.

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Popaphobia in Philadelphia—Part One...

Posted on Sep 26, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

I will not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

—Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, Frank Herbert’s Dune

Though a cradle Catholic, I am more interested this week in observing the human condition, and less in its religious specifics. Instead of imagining who will sneeze on my back in Church this week, I am cringing at the thought of how people will treat one another in three of our biggest American cities. How will people treat one another when they are packed like eggs in crates wrapped with barbwire?

Instead of praying for a friend who has a loved one fallen ill, I am praying that mass-hysteria will not prevail. I have lived through two category five hurricanes and attended the ill-fated Woodstock ’99. I have seen people at their worst. But, I’ve also seen them at their best. One of my fondest memories is of my street in Pensacola coming together to clean up fallen oaks with only two chainsaws and a few axes after Ivan struck.

During this week of preparations, my head has been filled with questions ranging from the mundane: Who has the best pork sandwich in Philadelphia? I’ve wondered about wi-fi and how quick my walks might be. To worst-case scenarios: Why does Philadelphia think closing all its roadways is a good idea? I’ve wondered about credentials and if it might be better to attend as the public.

This week, I am making a conscious effort to remain optimistic. My head goes back to seeing the Milky Way the first time when we lost power for two-and-a-half weeks that Fall of Ivan. Remaining positive is usually one of my strongest attributes. So is staying busy.

I’ve been making lists, printing maps, doing (past-due) laundry, checking lists, packing bottled water and survival gear (everything short of crossbows and nail clippers), making more lists, and checking them again has probably gone beyond beneficial. I think I’ve strained my planning muscles like a line cook can strain the English language. I feel like if the zombie apocalypse happens this weekend, I’ll be ready. But, it won’t be my home turf.

So what next? Action. Another thing I’m usually good at in life. Doing has become a sort of specialty of mine. Part of my reputation. But there are certain things that just put a fear into me. This goes beyond planning a trip to the mall around the holidays. This brings me back to the massive, uncontrollable crowds of Woodstock, and seeing some Gerald Scarfe-inspired riot-geared black hammers of fear and death approaching through fire and over death.

Come back tomorrow for Part Two. Get past your fear.

The post Popaphobia in Philadelphia—Part One appeared first on American Catholic Blog.

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Pope Francis in New York City...

Posted on Sep 26, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

A Healthier, More Peaceful Earth

Yesterday we saw Pope Francis in New York City, completing a majority of his visit to the Big Apple. The previous night was relatively quiet for him, after the excitement over his arrival at JFK Airport. He attended vespers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but there were no other events scheduled. Could it be that the indomitable Pope Francis was finally starting to get tired? Perhaps. But yesterday’s events suggest otherwise.

Yesterday morning, he was back to meeting and speaking with world leaders, this time at UN headquarters. “We human beings are part of the environment,” the pope said in his address. “We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. . . . Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.”

Following his speech to the UN, the pope visited the 9/11 Memorial. He prayed alongside Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York next to the south reflection pool. Afterward, he entered the 9/11 Museum, took a tour of the exhibits, and gave a short speech. “I feel many different emotions standing here at Ground Zero, where thousands of lives were taken in a senseless act of destruction. Here, grief is palpable,” he said.

His trip to an East Harlem Catholic school, Our Lady Queen of Angels, points to his abilities as a pastor to those on society’s periphery. His Mass in front of about 20,000 faithful shows that he has popular appeal. Both qualities suit a pope in the 21st century.

Notable Quotes from Day 3

Address at the United Nations

“War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.”

Speech at the 9/11 Memorial

“This place of death became a place of life, too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division.”

The Crowd Reaction from Day 3

It seemed that Pope Francis hit his stride in New York City today. He was able to see a wide variety of human life on Manhattan, from the chambers of the United Nations to the barrio in East Harlem.

At the 9/11 Memorial, the crowd was passionate but controlled, pushed back far away from the site of the attacks. You could still hear people chanting, “Papa Francisco,” but it was somewhat distant. This was a place for reflection, for meeting with families of the victims, and for dialogue with interreligious leaders.

In East Harlem, on the other hand, there was a festive atmosphere and closer access to where the pope’s motorcade was to drive through. Every passing service vehicle, whether police car, firetruck, or ambulance would receive a cheer from the crowd. When the pope’s car approached, there was no doubt it was him as a tremendous applause and cries for blessings in Spanish poured out from the people lining the street.

Pope Francis in New York City

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Methods of Travel—Part Two...

Posted on Sep 25, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

“I, too, am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.”
—Pope Francis

I’ve spent a lot of time going over the river and through the woods of how Philadelphia will be handling the influx of over 1.5 million new bodies in their city, but these little questions keep nagging. I chose to drive in to the city for this very reason. I want to experience that fast-moving Philadelphia air filling my nostrils through an open car window as an adult. Flying might have been more convenient. I chose to use airbnb, despite many locals diving into a trend of gouging. I want to hear how a local feels. I am excited that his perspective will be that of a Quaker and that he has signed up to host a Catholic family during the week’s World Meeting of Families and ‘Francis Festival’ as it has come to be called. This will probably be much more rewarding than the sad solitude so often found within the four walls of a traditional hotel room and its HBO subscription. And for more than just the good company.

I look forward to learning from my host and his potential transient tenants. I look forward to walking down a different Walnut Street in Philadelphia, though I walk one daily here in Cincinnati. I look forward to the fact that this route will cross a river called the Schuylkill that I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing in motion. And, yes, I look forward to hearing Pope Francis speak in person about religious freedom and immigration with We Hold These Truths. I look forward to hearing him give Mass on Sunday. And, yes, I look forward to the World Meeting of Families, of course. But maybe not for the reasons others might.

I already feel closer to my own family in this planning phase. I have called to tell them so. We had great conversations about shared memories of shared trips together and what travel meant to us as a family. And how others just don’t seem to get travel the way we do. At the same time, I genuinely feel closer to other Catholics for our upcoming shared and historic experiences together. Though it is rare my own life has swam in such a metanarrative, I will not forget the small things. I pray the rest of our brethren will remember the multiplication of loaves by both Christ and Reprebus on their respective journeys. Let’s look for ways to provide rejuvenation and sustenance for those we encounter along the way. Let us not forget the inevitable confrontation of self that happens in strange lands. Let us provide those loaves for ourselves too.

Safe planning and safe travels everyone. Next stop, Philadelphia!

The post Methods of Travel—Part Two appeared first on American Catholic Blog.

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"And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.

I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will."

-Papa Francis quote

He does not know you, yet he prays for you.
He will most likely never meet you, yet he loves you.

This is your chance to show your love, for as the Bible teaches, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."