To Be in the Presence of the Pope: A Journey to Philadelphia
On Thursday, September 24, fifty-four people (all strangers to me) boarded a purple and gold Panther motor coach to begin a journey to Philadelphia for the sole purpose of being in the presence of Pope Francis. Those on board represented a variety of parishes from various communities. After two days of travel we joined the crowd on Saturday, traveling by motor coach, then subway, then our own two feet to stand in line at security checkpoints. After having bags searched and walking through the body scanner, we were in the secure area to find our spot from which we hoped to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis as his pope mobile traveled the one mile Benjamin Franklin Parkway from one end to the other and back again. We were rewarded for standing four hours in one spot (with only one person in front of us) when the pope mobile with Pope Francis passed by. At that moment, the crowd screamed in delight and cameras were held high!
On Sunday, we attended the 4:00 PM outdoor Mass by viewing it on one of the many jumbo TV screens that were placed throughout the designated area. Only those with tickets were able to be in the area set up with chairs. We learned that tickets were distributed through church parishes near and far.
What a joy it was to be in the presence of Pope Francis on U.S. soil. He was in Philadelphia to be a part of the World Meeting of Families. There were so many young people, so many cultures, so many languages, so many religious, and such wonderful music from all.
We wrote intentions on strips of white ribbon and tied the ribbons on plastic netting that were then used to create the Knotted Grotto. We were supposed to untie someone else's ribbon and, with prayer, walk it to a different spot and tie it with a knot. We learned that throughout time and across all cultures, a knot has symbolized the struggles of everyday life and that Mary Untier of Knots is a favorite painting of Pope Francis. The Knotted Grotto, considered to be a piece of artwork, provided an opportunity for people from around the world "to contemplate, connect, and act through the tying and untying of knots." The grotto was located outside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. On Sunday, Pope Francis said a prayer at this grotto.
As one Philadelphian said as we were visiting, "If only everyone would follow this example.... if only everyone would listen to Pope Francis' message."