Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mass with the Holy Father at St. Patrick's

It is now almost 3 p.m. and what an incredible day this has been. We just got back to the Provincial Curia from our Mass with the Holy Father. This Mass was specifically for priests, deacons and religious men and women. I can't remember the last time I saw that many clergy and religious in one place. It was awesome!

So, I'll tell you a bit about my day. We got into the city last night after leaving New Milford following our evening Mass. Today we got up at 5 a.m. to get ready. By 6 a.m., we met a few other friars - Fr. Joe and Fr. Patrick - on the corner and took the subway up to St. Patrick's.

Once we got there, all the clergy gathered at the Palace Hotel where we vested for Mass. There was such a tone of excitement in the air it was contagious. There were religious and clergy of every type. Of course, the Eastern rite clergy always stand out with their spectacular vestments.
Then we had to cross through the metal detectors and headed to the Church.

Pictured here are myself, Fr. Mike, Fr. Joe (pastor of St. Anthony's NYC), Fr. Patrick (our Vicar Provincial Minister)
We finally got inside the church and to our seats at about 7:15 a.m. The atmosphere was electric and it was an excitement that continued to build for the next two hours until the Holy Mass began. Our seats were incredible (Pew 34) which was directly in line with the Ambo and not far from the sanctuary. We were seated right next to a press area (see below) and I was interviewed by Vatican Television (so let me know if you see me my Roman brothers).
The choir began to play it numerous prelude pieces which were all beautiful. After the Cardinals and bishops were seated, Mayor Bloomberg greeted everyone. I have been in his presence a few times now, and he is always a very friendly and gracious man.

And then, probably at right about 9 a.m., they opened the large front doors to the Cathedral. You could hear a pin drop in the Church. And then, from outside, the most incredible roar from the outside crowd echoes throughout the Church - the Pope had arrived. Within minutes, that cry carried over into the Church as the Pope entered through the great doors. In an instant, everyone was on their feet cheering our Holy Father. He came down the main aisle to thunderous applaus and greeted everyone from in front of the altar. (You can see him pictured below greeting everyone.) Then, he went to vest for the beginning of the Mass.

In his hope-filled homily, the Holy Father said, "Let us lift our gaze upward! And with great humility and confidence, let us ask the Spirit to enable us each day to grow in the holiness that will make us living stones in the temple which he is even now raising up in the midst of our world. If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner reconciliation through penance. Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and put aside all anger and contention. Let us be the first to demonstrate the humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of God’s truth. In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles (cf. 1 Tim 6:20), let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!

"Dear brothers and sisters, in the finest traditions of the Church in this country, may you also be the first friend of the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the sick and all who suffer. Act as beacons of hope, casting the light of Christ upon the world, and encouraging young people to discover the beauty of a life given completely to the Lord and his Church. I make this plea in a particular way to the many seminarians and young religious present. All of you have a special place in my heart. Never forget that you are called to carry on, with all the enthusiasm and joy that the Spirit has given you, a work that others have begun, a legacy that one day you too will have to pass on to a new generation. Work generously and joyfully, for he whom you serve is the Lord!"

The Holy Father, of course, presided at the Holy Mass. It is always wonderful when priests concelebrate the Mass, but this was almost overwhelming - what a sign of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ as so many priests, bishops and cardinals concelebrated the Eucharist. When we sang the Doxology it was like a chorus.

I think I was most touched by the humility of our Shepherd. It is hard to put into words because it is a sense that is conveyed through his personality, but this is a very humble, prayerful man - one who loves the Church, loves his priests, loves the world he has been called to serve.

At the end of Mass, during the recessional, he walked all around the Church so people could see him closely. You see the picture below in which I was no more than a few feet away from the Pope. I could have grabbed that hand if I wasn't taking the picture.

Below are two pictures of priests eagerly trying to see the Pope and get his picture. Now, this might be a bit irreverant for the Holy Mass, but the reality was the incredible, child-like joy that the Supreme Shepherd engendered in his priests. Overwhelming joy!

Below, the priests and all gathered applaud the Holy Father. (Yes, that's Fr. Mike right there.)

Tomorrow, we head to Yankee Stadium (I had to make a sacrifice) for another Mass. What a pilgrimage this has been. How on fire with God's love I feel. The Vicar of Christ has visited us and lifted us up. May his ministry be blessed! Amen.

You can see more of my pictures at:


  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to recount your your experience and share pictures, Fr. Washburn! My husband and I finished watching the recording on about an hour ago and it was so splendid.

    Even over a broadcast, you could sense the excitement and joy. :-)

  2. It truly has been quite an experience to have our Holy Father in our country. Just watching it on television I get goosebumps and I can't imagine how it must be in person. Please keep in prayer at the Yankees Mass!