Please forgive the editor for the title. She’s a sucker for a good alliteration.
A couple of weeks ago, with about 10 days notice, I got the incredible news that I was going to get to see Papa Frankie, the most adorable human on earth, address a joint session of Congress in Washington D.C.! I felt wholly blessed and unworthy to go, but I knew that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Being there was absolutely surreal. Getting up at 2 AM to walk a couple of miles in D.C. (In business casual I might add) by 3 AM didn’t seem like much of a sacrifice, nor did waiting in dewy grass for several hours because WE WERE GOING TO SEE THE POPE!
The anticipation was almost palpable when the moment finally came for the Holy Father to speak to Congress. The hush of a previously lively crowd of thousands was astounding, but it didn’t last long. After what seemed like every sentence that came out of His Holiness’ mouth, there were roars of cheering and applause. I can only attribute what happened next to the Pope’s role as Vicar of Christ. I found myself holding back tears of joy and many around me had tears flowing silently. One woman held another woman, who was clearly a stranger, saying, “Yes! It’s him! It is our Holy Father!” Everyone was emotionally overwhelmed and it was clear that the entire crowd was won over and over again with each topic he spoke an undeniable truth about.
Now, I was happy and excited with everything he had to say, but when he was finished I was frankly a little disappointed he didn’t bring up abortion. He alluded to it, of course, which made some in the crowd hold back on cheers, but he never even said the word ‘abortion’. I don’t want to criticize Pope Francis, but what message was this sending to our nation? Then I realized; he was speaking to our nation. This wasn’t a homily; he wasn’t in a room of Catholics or even God-fearing Christians for that matter, he was speaking to the representatives of a country that is just about as religiously diverse as it gets. People already know the church doesn’t approve of abortion, gay marriage, transsexualism etc. but they don’t realize or have forgotten the capacity of the Church’s love. People have started to see the Catholic Church as cold, unaccepting, and flat out bad because its social teaching is counter to that of our society. They’ve forgotten the church is good! It is one that believes in mercy. This message of goodness was the one Pope Francis chose to send.
During the papal visit to the United States, I heard a newscaster say several times that “Pope Francis was the most popular man in the world”. This newscaster marveled at the crowds that the Holy Father could draw and at his ability to gain the respect and love of non-Catholics, and even non-Christians. His example of goodness and mercy allows for the doors to Christ to be opened wide sometimes, if I’m being honest, wider than I thought they could go, even to those actively working against Jesus’ teachings. It is specifically because of Pope Francis’ humble missionary spirit that hearts are being cared for, healed, and ultimately won for our Lord. Pope Francis wants to lead by example so it is only right that we follow and be excited show grace to everyone more readily. It is only by succeeding in this we can demonstrate that the Catholic Church is beautiful and it is good. I can definitely see how I can grow in this in my own life, so this was incredibly meaningful to me. Overall, I feel really fortunate that I was able to learn from the Holy Father and be in Washington at this historic moment.
Brianna is a Junior Speech Pathology Major from San Antonio, TX.