It was about three weeks ago that I went with a group of John Carroll and Canisius students to go see Pope Francis in Philadelphia while he was visiting for the Meeting of Families, and I’m still on a “Pope high.”
We went down to Philly on Saturday and left Sunday. On Saturday we were lucky enough to have a Pope sighting! He drove by in his little black Fiat on a road near, St. Joseph’s University. All we could see was his arm draped in his starch white robe and his hand waving outside of the window. We barely got a glimpse of his face. There is a video of this, and if you’d like to see it, check my Facebook page.
We were waiting to see the Pope for about an hour on the street after a late dinner. So it was almost 10 p.m. when he drove by. He was driving to where he would be staying the night, yet he still had his window rolled down (which is extremely dangerous for him to be doing) and was waving to all the people on the streets late at night.
Pope Francis is 78 years old; if he was taking a nap in the car on his way to where he would be sleeping that night I would not have been surprised. The man had been running around Philly all day long with no rest. He was probably exhausted! But he was still taking the time to wave at the people who gathered on the streets to see him because he knew that it was important to us.
It’s this type of energy and vitality that Pope Francis is bringing to the Catholic Church that people are getting excited about. This so-called “Francis Effect” everyone is talking about is very real and is having a real effect on not just the Church, but the world. Pope Francis’ message of love and mercy to all people, especially the people on the outskirts that don’t have much of a voice unless someone else is speaking for them, is making waves in the political world. More importantly, however, Pope Francis is changing the hearts and minds of individual people in the real world.
By “real world,” I mean he’s affecting people on an extremely personal level. People that once had no faith in the Church are now starting to come back. Even those who are already full-fledged members of the Church are making changes for the better. I know personally, after learning about Francis, and then having a small encounter with him when he whizzed by, I was-and still am being affected. I am more understanding of people’s situations before I jump to judgments, I’m more concerned for those without a voice in this world, among other things.
Pope Francis is preaching mercy and love – what the Church has been trying to do since it’s existence! Pope Francis is doing an exceptional job spreading the Church’s message, just as Jesus would have wanted it.