There are a lot of great moments that come with being Pastor. You would likely understand my excitement at the privilege of giving kids their first Holy Communions, for example. Similarly, I bet none of you would be surprised to learn that I have really enjoyed giving people the chance to see the Pope.
This week I have been in the happy position of distributing tickets to the Mass with Pope Francis at Catholic University of America. You know everybody who wanted one had to write a letter explaining why they should represent our parish. The letters were great, and the folks who are going cover an amazing spectrum of our people. Young to old, long-time parishioners to brand-new Catholics, some of this and a bit of that: we will be well represented.
Getting a ticket from our parish allotment is not the only way Saint Bernadette faithful are getting the chance to be at the Mass with the Holy Father. I know of at least three who are singing in the choir, and at least one assisting as a volunteer. Several are attending because they are faculty at CUA, and several because of the work they do in the Archdiocese beyond our parish. It’s no surprise; our parish is an integral and essential part of the life of the local Church, and when the Church of Washington undertakes something this big, you know she will call upon Saint Bernadette for her participation. If you look closely you might even see me assisting the Cardinals in the sanctuary.
We are also sending a busload of our young people, led by our principal Mrs. Wood, to greet the Holy Father at the Apostolic Nunciature. That is the Holy See’s “embassy” over on Massachusetts Avenue, where he will be staying while in Washington. A couple folks have told me that they have a chance to attend the ceremonies with the Pope and the President at the White House; and several families plan to line the route of the Popemobile Parade around the Ellipse. Nobody has said they have a ticket to the address to the joint session of Congress, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we had “one of us” among even that exclusive group.
I was happy to be able to give tickets to three students in our school who asked to attend the Mass. I was so happy, I invited four television stations to come and see me surprise them with their tickets in their classrooms. Channels 4, 7, 9, and EWTN all ran stories that showed our kids’ excitement and understanding of the significance of the event. If you missed them, you may still be able to catch them on the websites.
This is not a matter of mere celebrity. Our kids know who Pope Francis is, and who he is to them. It’s not about this or that he has said, or done, or changed, or kept the same; it is that he is the Successor of Peter and our Holy Father. He loves them as he loves Christ and the Church, and they love him right back. This shone through in everything our students said and did in front of those TV cameras, and the journalists along with everyone who saw them on TV cannot help but recognize it. I am so proud.
It gives me joy to know that you all are eager to be with our Holy Father, and as members of the Church of Washington, to be the first “face” he sees on his first visit to our country. If it gives me this much joy, I can only imagine the joy that is in store for our Universal Pastor, Pope Francis, when he stands for the first time before all these people, understanding and experiencing that we are his, and he is ours.Monsignor Smith
Check out these links to the news stories about Saint Bernadette kids' getting their tickets:
Channel 4 WRC
Channel 7 WJLA
Channel 9 WUSA