The Pope in America

Dearest Friend,

I’ve never been a very religious person. True, I went to a Catholic school for nine years – one more year and I would have been given a Loyalty Award, and yes, I am still pissed off about not getting that. I participate in the neighborhood rounds for the Month of the Holy Rosary, and I even lead the prayers when it’s our house’s turn to host. But I only hear Mass around once every three months, and admittedly, only when I’m asking for something or when I’m in a good mood, which is even rarer. In between these random urges to visit my local parish, I content myself with praying before I go to sleep at night. Although sometimes I forget to.

Pope Francis came to the US this week. I was surprised to discover that, because I’d only entered the States a few days before he did. He went to Washington DC – which is a bus ride from where I currently live – and then to New York City, and then Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. My mother, who works in DC, unexpectedly saw him on the day after her birthday. She was apparently out of the office to get a sandwich somewhere because one of her officemates had told her to – this part of the story is never clear – when the Pope’s car suddenly drove by. It was just her and some random stranger standing on the curb when the Pope looked out and waved to them. Her companion apparently cried. My mother didn’t cry, but she hasn’t stopped talking about the experience since. Not to mention, we’ve been glued to CNN for days because she’s been hit with Popemania.

They talked about the Pope during the 8:00 AM Mass my family attended at St. Michael’s on Sunday. They talked about the Pope, too, when we had lunch with Filipino friends at a nice restaurant called Lumpia, Pansit, Atbp in Westfield. I’m talking about him, too, here in my little virtual space online because he’s really a nice guy. Everyone has a lot of nice things to say about him – humble, being the most prominent adjective mainly thanks to his cute Fiat – and I agree with most of them. I appreciate how he doesn’t recycle his speeches – my favorite is the one for Congress. I love how he interacts with children. I especially admire how someone so important could care so little about pomp and circumstance. A lot of reporters keep flinging around the word ‘divine’ when talking about him. But when I see the Pope, I don’t see that. I see a man with a message, extraordinary but normal still, and it’s that warm humanity that attracts people to him – not the title, not the alleged divinity.

Watching the Pope, even on TV, made me feel vaguely attached. My mother waved at his airplane when he left. In farewell, I raised a hand.

A.

(c) CNN.

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