Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The first day of the World Meeting of Families (September 22, 2015)
By Marie Lins
PHILADELPHIA -- The first day of the World Meeting of Families was a busy one.
There was a press conference in the media center with Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family. They each gave a brief message of welcome and told of the joy in the preparation for this World Meeting of Families. With over 17,500 registered participants, this is the largest World Meeting of Families in history. After their statements they took questions from the press.
The mural that is being created by people of Philadelphia and World Meeting of Families participants was spoken of and the archbishops were each presented with their own paintbrush by local Catholic school children. the mural is a large "paint by numbers" and they plan to break the world record for the number of people working together to create a work of art.
Atheism sees God as a competitor to human beings. But when God comes close to people, they are like the burning bush in Scripture, they become luminous and radiant and beautiful without being consumed. He quoted a saint who said that the glory of God is a human being fully alive.
Bishop Barron spoke of two ideas of freedom. One is the "Freedom of Indifference" which says the individual can decide what I will be and do and sees laws or rules as a necessary evil that is imposed.
He contrasted that with the idea of freedom in the Bible and Catholic tradition that is "Freedom for Excellence" which is a shaping of desire which makes achievement of the good first possible and then effortless. He used an example of learning to play golf — that you don't just go out and do whatever you feel like because you won't be very good, but if you learn the rules and laws of how to swing a golf club that gives you the freedom to become a better golfer.
Laws are not the enemy of freedom, but it is what frees you to achieve excellence and makes true freedom possible.
In talking with people throughout the day, I met a number of people from Africa, including from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania, which all brought large groups. Over 100 countries are represented at this World Meeting of Families.
|Relics of St. Paul Paul II and St. Giana Molla, the patrons of the World Meeting of Families, are exhibited at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.|
By Marie Lins
PHILADELPHIA -- The second day of the World Meeting of Families was full of activity.
The morning keynote session was given by Cardinal Cardinal Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Dicastery of the Holy See for the realization of the charitable intentions of the Holy Father. He spoke on "The Trinity and the Family."
It was hard to choose among the 15 options for a morning breakout session, but I chose Dr. John Grabowski, who is a professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America and has recently been named as an auditor for the Synod on the Family to be held next month in Rome. He spoke on growing in virtue in the family and gave many ideas and examples.
I am impressed by the organization here at the World Meeting of Families, both the line for the buffet lunch and the line to pick up our tickets for the Festival of Families and the Papal Mass were very long but with the help of many friendly volunteers, we moved through with speed and efficiency. It is obvious that a lot of planning has gone into making this event run smoothly.
The exhibit hall is filled with an amazing array of booths of Catholic apostolates, religious orders, and publishers. It is fantastic to see all of these great Catholic resources being made available to participants. I loved it but felt a little overwhelmed at the number and variety of exhibitors.
The afternoon keynote address was given by Professor Helen Alvaré, a professor of law at George Mason University in Virginia. She spoke of how we are created for relationship and how God gives us family to give us opportunities to learn to love and prepares us to love others who God places in our path.
|People write prayer intentions at the Knotted Grotto in Philadelphia. The exhibit was inspired by one of Pope Francis' favorite devotions: Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.|
|Marie Lins places her prayer intentions at the Knotted Grotto.|
She said that society today claims that there is nothing unique about the relationship of man and woman and discourages marriage and having children. But we need to share our real human experiences that show the despair of living only for yourself and the joy of living for others that we learn in our family life as God designed it.
I chose the afternoon breakout led by Dr. Janet Smith, whose topic was "Loving the Elderly." She is currently a full-time caregiver for her mother who has dementia. She shared a lot of advice for caring for elderly parents and the joy that can be found in being a care-giver if you look for it and keep your sense of humor along with the struggles and need to find ways to care for yourself.
After the WMOF activities had ended for the day, I walked over to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul and was happy to find many wonderful treasures. During the World Meeting of Families they have the relics of St. John Paul II and St. Gianna Molla who are the official patrons of this Philadelphia World Meeting of Families.
They have the wedding dress of St. Gianna Molla -- her 60th wedding anniversary would have been tomorrow, September 24, and another case with her gloves, letters to her husband, her prayer book and holy cards, and a few other items. Relics of St. Thérèse of Liseux and her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, are in the same area of the church.
I also went to see the original of the World Meeting of Families icon which is near the front of the basilica. I have loved it since I first saw it last year and am so glad I was able to see it up close. The artist, Neilson Carlin, painted a number of the images of the saints in the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Cosse, Wis., so it is wonderful to see he beautiful image he created for this event.
Outside of the Eucharistic Adoration chapel at the basilica, I came across a piece of public artwork called the Knotted Grotto that is being created. As you enter the area, you are offered a strip of white cloth. There are various tables with markers and pens and you are asked to write your prayer intentions on your cloth and then tie it to netting that is along the walls and on a structure.
After you have attached your prayer intentions, you then untie someone else's prayer intentions from the wall and pray for them. Once you have prayed you then weave the cloth with the prayed for intentions into the netting in another area.
This exhibit is inspired by one of the favorite devotions of Pope Francis, Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. The exhibit is intended to make the issues of hunger, poverty, and homelessness visible while allowing visitors from around the world to connect through the act of tying and untying knots and praying for one another.
I found that spending a little time in prayer in the Adoration chapel was the perfect way to finish a very full day before catching the train to get back home for the night. It has been a wonderful couple of days so far, and meeting wonderful people from around the world throughout each day is such a blessing.
Pope Francis arrives in Washington, D.C. (September 22, 2015)
By Cathy Lins
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The city was buzzing on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, as Pope Francis arrived in the Washington, D.C. area.
Earlier in the day, workers were putting chairs and gates in place in preparation for the Holy Father’s Canonization Mass, visit to the White House, parade, and address to Congress. Streets were closing, and flashing signs along the Interstate alerted visitors that they should use public transit instead of driving into the city.
As the Holy Father landed at Andrew Air Force Base on “Shepherd One,” commentators noted that it’s rare for President Barack Obama to play “second fiddle” to anyone on his home turf, but the crowd was clearly with Pope Francis. Radio and television crews and local people started the “Pope Francis Motorcade Watch,” announcing their path and posting video footage of the Fiat carrying him into the city.
When he arrived at the Vatican Embassy, where he would stay for rest and meals, he was welcomed by local Catholic school children. Different groups will be able to greet him as he comes in and out of the facility throughout his visit to the area.
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, priests in clerics, Religious community members, Catholic lay members, and others just fascinated with the Holy Father visibly filled the city, visiting their representatives’ offices to get tickets for the Papal Address to Congress, walking the streets, and riding the metro trains and buses to get to the day’s events. Locals seemed curious about our influx into the city, though occasionally annoyed at the disruptions happening throughout the city due to the sheer volume of the people coming in.
Security is a factor for every step. Kevin Blau and his family from Merrimac, Wis., along with his cousins, had tickets reserved with Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Johnson for the Papal Address to Congress. I went in early to collect the tickets for them. Every building required a security check point process.
Participants going to the 11 a.m. public motorcade parade from the Ellipse to the National Mall, and back to the White House, were required to be in position behind the gates and fences placed along the streets by 10 a.m. Those who had tickets for the Canonization Mass had to have cleared security by 3 p.m. or not be allowed in for the 4:15 p.m. Mass.
Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, will start early. Ticketed participants coming for the Papal Address to Congress will get the best seats if they are there when the event security check points open at 5 a.m. Tickets have been broken into Red and Blue sections on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building. Jumbotrons will project the speech. Following his presentation inside, Pope Francis will address people on the West Lawn.
The Holy Father will then rest before heading out Thursday night for New York.
Pope Francis addresses Congress (September 24, 2015)
By Cathy Lins
|Pope Francis, along with Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House John Boehner, stands on the balcony of the U.S. Capitol building where he addressed a crowd following his address to a joint session of Congress.
|The papal flag, which has accompanied the pope on each of his stops, flies in Washington, D.C.|
|A crowd outside the U.S. Capitol waits to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis.|
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On September 24, Pope Francis would make an historic address to the a joint session of the United States Congress. By 4 a.m., I was up and on my way to the West Lawn standing area only section.
The gates, which blocked public access and secured the lanes for the visit, were up. Those fortunate enough to have one of the red and blue tickets for sections for the main lawn, or green and yellow tickets for seating on the concourses of the west side of the U.S. Capitol, were funneled toward the security check points and their designated locations.
A military band entertained us with various marches and other pieces while we waited. School groups and religious groups chanted and sang. The crowds cheered when one of the tents that had been placed near the front came down. We were all looking for the best spot so we could see the pope when he spoke from the balcony on the top floor. Participants seemed to sense the historic nature of the visit, and were snapping photos of themselves and their friends with the capitol in the background with their phones and iPads.
Finally, the Jumbotrons came on and projected the pope’s departure from the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States (Vatican Embassy). We could see that the motorcade, including the Fiat, was on the way. The crowd went wild when we could see his car pull up to the Capitol building.
Thanks to the microphones in the Speaker of the House's Ceremonial Office, we could hear the exchange between Speaker John Boehner, the pope, and his team.
The footage from the Jumbotron allowed the crowd to see the inside of the joint session as the members prepared for the Holy Father’s appearance, and the movement of the Holy Father as he made his way through the building.
Finally, the event we had been waiting for arrived. In his wide-ranging address that was frequently interrupted by applause, the pope touched on many themes including the need for politics to serve the common good, the importance of cooperation and solidarity, the dangers of fundamentalism, the refugee crisis, abolition of the death penalty, the need for courageous acts to avert environmental deterioration, the evils of the arms trade, and threats to the family from within and without.
During his speech he also mentioned four great Americans from the past, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton, saying that each of them helped build a better future for the people of the U.S. "Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God."
Following his presentation inside, Pope Francis addressed members on the West Lawn. From his view, one could see a sea of people, excitedly waiting to see him. He offered us his blessing, and asked us to pray for him too. He also asked that those who did not believe, or could not pray, would send warm wishes his way.
As we departed, security made sure the crowd was cordoned off until the motorcade was well on its way to the Holy Father's next visit. While we walked with the exiting crowd, the most common chatter was about Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Who are they? What is the Catholic Worker Movement? Clearly, people’s curiosity was stirred and they will be checking into more about these heroes of the faith.
Weekend Festival of Families concludes pope's visit (September 27, 2015)
By Cathy Lins
PHILADELPHIA -- Over one million people attended each day of the Festival of Families with Pope Francis. Pilgrims and others in the city waited sometimes up to six hours to clear security for the chance to briefly see the Holy Father during the public parades, or on the Jumbotrons stationed around the grounds.
We tried a different technique each day.
On Saturday, we joined the people entering the city between 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. on the SEPTA trains. Once we had been dropped off at our designated station inside the city center, we walked on the roads -- which were now pedestrian only passageways.
At that point, security lines were relatively short. We then spent the rest of the day waiting to watch the Pope's 4:45 p.m. presentation at Independence Hall and 7:30 p.m. parade.
After waiting 10 hours along the parkway on Saturday, the crowd stood along the security fences hoping to see the pope. With people putting their cameras and phones up in the air for photos, some looked for ways to get up higher for a better view.
On Sunday, Marie tried going down a little bit later in the day -- taking a 10:30 a.m. train. She encountered a four-hour wait in security lines for a chance to enter the grounds to watch the mass on the Jumbotron.
We found that for the most part, people were kind and patient. Most took it as an opportunity to visit with one another, and ask questions about what we were doing at our local churches, and how we saw this visit having an impact on our respective countries. We found that our neighbors in our section were from Nigeria, Canada, Argentina, and the Philippines. CNN stopped at one point to interview the people around us.
The excitement and sense of hope from Pope Francis ignited a desire to take this home and take it further in our own areas.