So, Saturday after the Mass was a day of just basking in the glow of having concelebrated the Mass with the Pope and roughly 2,000 other priests, bishops and cardinals in the morning. Their is something so special about the shared ministry of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ when concelebrating. Usually our only experience that even approaches that during the year comes during the Chrism Mass each year at Holy Week, when all of the priests of the Archdiocese concelebrate together. But, concelebrating a Mass with the Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of Christ, is absolutely amazing. You just feel so connected to something so much bigger than you. The only thing better than concelebrating with the Pope and thousands of other priests - doing it two days in a row!
Saturday night we had a wonderful fraternal dinner with a bunch of friars in the city, and went to bed early to rest up for Sunday. Luckily we didn't have as early a start since Mass was at 2:30 p.m., but we got moving at a decent hour. Since Fr. Mike and I don't know the subways of NYC too well, we hooked up with our local Franciscan parish, St. Anthony of Padua on Sullivan Street (www.stanthonynyc.org). The pastor there is Fr. Joe Lorenzo. I don't remember if I mentioned this yesterday, but Fr. Joe was vocation director (along with Fr. Mario) when Fr. Mike and I entered the Franciscans - so he is responsible for bringing us in (blame him!). Fr. Joe was also pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Derry, NH (www.stthomasderry.org) where I made my Solemn Vows in 1997, was ordained in 2000, and was stationed there from 1997-2004. So, we go way back!
While waiting in line for a Nathan's hot dog, I met this woman below. I think her name was Denise. It is the first time anyone has ever recognized me from my blog! She came up to me and said, "Are you Fr. Tom? I read your blog!" My first brush with web-celebrity! Oh my! She was very sweet!
There was a wonderful concert called a Concert for Hope that really made the waiting go by quickly and enjoyably. The concert just added to the excitement that built throughout the morning and early afternoon. The highlight for me was a long time favorite of mine Harry Connick Jr. But, it was all awesome! Then, on cue at about 2:20 p.m. the Pope arrived and rode around the park in the Pope Mobile. It would be an understatement to say that the crowd went wild!
One of the images that was so powerful both days were the large number of religious women who were everywhere. You can see in the photo below an entire section of habited women (in white) in the upper deck across from us. But, these women were everywhere. We really need to pray for and encourage young women to embrace the life as a consecrated religious. Do you know any woman who might make a good sister or nun? Do me two favors today - first, pray for them; secondly, tell them!
The Mass of course was beautiful - even surprisingly so given the challenge of celebrating Mass with 60,000 people. I know how difficult it can be to find a solemn silence in our church with 500 people - how we did that with 60,000 was surely a grace.
Just one snipped of the Pope's powerful words in his homily:
One of the most beautiful moments was when the "official" concelebrating priests came out onto the dais with their ciboria. What an image of the Church - this was the Church, is the Church - bishop, priest, deacon, people - united around the altar in prayer, in Eucharistic prayer. I wish Fr. Mike and I could have been among that group, but we were not able to get those particular tickets. We were graced, none the less, to be where we were.
At the end of the Mass, the Holy Father departed. You could tell there was a sense in the crowd, like that of St. Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration - "It is good that we are here. Let us set up tents!" We didn't want to let him go.
Pope Benedict came to this country last week as somewhat of an unknown quantity, still a bit in the shadow of his predecessor, John Paul the Great. While no one could fill those shoes, Benedict has put on a pair of his own and filled those just right. I am awed and amazed at the grace through which the Holy Spirit continually selects the right man for the right time.
Benedict this week became Our Pope, and I think we all fell in love with him. I saw a newspaper in New York that said it well. I paraphrase, "Pope Benedict does not have the kind of charisma that John Paul had, but he has a charisma of sincerity." I think that names it well, a Charisma of Sincerity. He loves the Church, he loves us, his flock.
Today, I think each of us loves him and the Church even more. Let this be a renewal, a new springtime, a new beginning for the Church in America and the world.
Viva Il Papa!