It’s happening. Pope Francis will be in the United States in just a few short weeks. The Pope is expected to address the United Nations in New York City, make a speech before Congress in Washington D.C. and speak to the world from Philadelphia. (Mark my words, you will be sick of the phrase, “City of Brotherly Love” by the time the trip is over.) And who gets to go? This girl! Ok, me and 1.6 million others but still…
A delegation from the Diocese of El Paso will also be in attendance. We fly out on the 22nd and return about a week later. On paper, the trip is a logistical nightmare. You figure hotels will be sold out or near capacity. Restaurants will be full and public transportation will be CRAZY! Still … it’s the POPE! And his rock star status is hard to ignore.
I get to go as part of my job (what a perk!) But what makes someone want to see the leader of the Catholic Church? I remember my grandparents did it when Pope John Paul II visited San Antonio in 1987. I was a teenager and remember seeing the video on the nightly news. I couldn’t image my grandparents in a crowd of 350,000 people. Puhleeze, my Grandpa Joe didn’t even like waiting in long lines at The Popular! But they came back just fired up, especially my grandmother. Grandma Cleo brought back a beautiful baby blue crystal rosary that hung from the headboard of her bed. When she died, I inherited it. She said it was blessed by the Pope (don’t know if that’s true) and in that spot between the first “Glory Be” and the first “Our Father” is a clear container that used to have holy water. This is one of my most precious possessions because it’s a great reminder to me of where I come from – not just in my family but in my faith.
I’ve been interviewing people who are going on our trip and they all have different reasons for going. For some, it’s catechesis. For others, it’s a chance to experience something unique. Me? I’ve said before, I’m a people watcher. I want to see what everyone else is getting out of the experience. And I hope (pray?) it gives me a chance to draw something from it as my Grandma Cleo did. She was always a strong Catholic woman, never strayed from the church. I can’t say the same.
And so, I head to Philly with the expectation of coming back with great stories for you to read in the Rio Grande Catholic, videos on our El Paso delegation on our YouTube channel. And on a personal note, maybe, just maybe, I can come back with a touch of Grandma. Who knew that Pope Francis could do that too?!