What a blessing Pope Francis was to all of us during his five day visit - atheist, Jew, Moslem, Christian and every culture! We, RSC’s, were glued to the television whenever we could get a break to listen to one riveting talk after another! It was wonderful to get messages from our sisters in other countries who were watching it at the same time.
We could not believe how he kept up the pace of travel as he had just come from his Cuban visit, dealt with monster crowds, met with leaders and delivering one moving speech after another to diverse audiences. On the plane home, Pope Francis said he was surprised by the warmth of the American people and how loveable we were!!!
Three sisters from the Region were able to be part of the Pope’s visit at the Liturgies, meetings, and along the parade route. Sisters Edith Prendergast and Catherine Ryan were in Washington D.C. Sr. Margaret Farrell enjoyed the Pope in Philadelphia and attended the World Family Meeting. Photos show them along the parade route and their view from where they stood.
His challenge to Congress and to all Americans was to build the common good, to remember how we were all once immigrants and to provide for those made poor. Pope Francis kept reminding us of the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you! He used the stories of four great Americans: Abraham Lincoln who defended liberty! Martin Luther King who had a dream for each person to have full civil rights, Dorothy Day with her passion for justice who started the Catholic Worker and lived with the homeless, and Thomas Merton, the contemplative, who promoted inter faith dialogue and justice.
The Interfaith Peace Prayer at Ground Zero, the site of 9-11 was a powerful experience for all of us. Leaders of many faith traditions gathered beside the Pope, including Moslems, Jews, Buddhist, Hindu and various Christian religious. Some sang or prayed in their own languages. Pope Francis said “Together we are called to say ‘No’ to every attempt to impose uniformity and ‘Yes’ to a diversity accepted and reconciled.” A children’s choir sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth” in an emotional rendering. The children were from all races and religions. In the ashes and rubble of the Twin Towers after 9-11 was found an intact Bible untouched by the fire. It has been exhibited in this New York museum permanently as a reminder to all who visit the scene of 9-11.
Pope Francis spoke at the United Nations and called for action to care for creation, social justice, and an end to violence against ethnic and religious minorities. He mentioned human trafficking in his speech to the Congress as well as to the UN.
At the World Meeting of Families he spoke off the cuff and having just heard the concert that night at the Festival of Families remarked “All that is beautiful leads us to God. Because God is good, God is beautiful, God is true.” Can you hear echoes of the Principle and Foundation there? We know he loves classical music and good literature and has found God in all things.
At several liturgies he spoke about women in the church and in particular women religious, telling us “I love you!” “Where would the Church be without women religious?”
People say they are now suffering from Papa-Partum depression after five glorious days of challenging and affirming speeches and wonderful liturgies. We were so struck by his authenticity, simplicity and ability to challenge Congress without being offensive. We watched him focus on those on the margins of society along the parade route asking them to stop so he could greet and embrace babies (even one dressed up as the Pope!), people with disabilities, victims of sexual abuse and their families, and children in a poor school. He also made time to eat lunch at a homeless shelter and visit inmates in a prison.
We are now reading the text of his talks and praying with them. With his emphasis on income inequality, care for our common home and encouraging all to fight human trafficking, we are truly “thinking with the Church”. Our RSC priorities are aligned with his priorities!
Pope Francis is a great teacher for us RSC’s and our relationship with Lazarus in our contemporary world. The first thing Francis looks at in meeting priests and seminarians is their shoes. Are they dusty? This is proof they were out with the people. Or are the shoes shiny? In his single-hearted focus on those made poor he challenges us to look at our “shoes”…How have we walked with the poor this day? He keeps inviting us to get out and into our neighborhoods and be with the people. We saw his face light up with each disabled person, prisoner, sick and homeless human being. Does our face light up with joy when we encounter them? We are relishing his visit, which felt like a retreat for the whole country and praying that we hear his challenges in a way that changes our priorities and our hearts.
The texts of all Pope Francis’ talks are available by clicking HERE.