Friday, April 25, 2008

"Peace Be With You"

One thought and prayer that I often have during Mass is connecting with the church over time and space. Reciting prayers that have been said for thousands of years and that are being said today by millions around the world is a very powerful experience for me.

On a week-to-week basis, these kinds of thoughts require some abstraction. Sure, I can close my eyes and listen to the responses of those in the congregation around me. But there are many others who aren't there, yet who I nevertheless seek to be in communion with.

All of this became real in a very different sense for me at the Papal Mass. There I was, surrounded by tens of thousands of Catholics, from all over the Archdiocese and beyond. And in the midst of it all was Pope Benedict XVI, the successor of Peter who came from far away to be with us. After all of the pomp and circumstance, when it was time to begin the liturgy, the Pope issued that traditional greeting, "Peace be with you." I was totally unprepared for the incredibly loud and joyous response, "And also with you." This was what I had been imagining all of these years! I felt like I was getting a little glimpse into the church across time and space, and it was kind of overwhelming, actually. I never really was able to croak out a reply of my own, due to the emotions that immediately welled up inside of me.

And also with you!

~Steve

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Papal Pet Peeve

Something that has bothered me for as long as I can remember is when people leave Mass early--right after Holy Communion--to "beat the crowd" out of the parking lot. To me, that's like leaving your host's home without thanking him for the meal. Since we usually sit at the front of the church these days, it's been a while since I've had to watch and wince.

Until yesterday, that is...

As you might imagine, distributing the Eucharist to over 40,000 people is quite an undertaking. The way it was carried out at the Papal Mass, though, was flawless. Priests and Deacons had designated areas and, at the appropriate time, everyone in the stands filed in an orderly fashion to receive. As for me, I headed up the steps to a large area where several clergymen were stationed.

Then I saw it. People dashing out of the stadium after receiving. I couldn't believe my eyes. This was the Papal Mass...a Mass that over 500,000 people worldwide requested tickets for and probably would have paid top dollar to get.

Leaving the Papal Mass right after Communion? You've got to be kidding me.

~Desi

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Pope and His People

The other morning, 42,000 Catholics from the Archdiocese of Washington and beyond gathered in the new Nationals Stadium for something spectacular. Pope Benedict XVI had finally arrived in the nation's capital to celebrate Mass for all of these people. It was the most wonderful sight I have ever seen. So many people, all in the same place and all believing the same thing, singing and saying these responses, was just amazing to me. I knew there were going to be a lot of people, but I couldn't even believe my eyes when I saw the thousands.

Things got even more unbelievable yet wonderful when the Pope finally came around the bend, right into my view and the view of the entire mega-congregation. My seat had a wonderful view of the Pope-mobile and the Pope, who was smiling and waving. The look in his eyes gave me a warm feeling that I will always remember and I know many, many other people recognized at the same time.

The Mass kept this warmth alive inside of me. It was one of the most beautiful Masses I have ever witnessed. As Archbishop Wuerl welcomed the Pope, the people couldn't contain their joy to have such a holy man in their presence. The cheering continued each time the Pope would acknowledge the crowd's presence, and the smile on his face told the whole world of his happiness and the happiness he brought to the 42,000 present. When the Pope gave his homily, his voice was so soothing I think it calmed every single person in the stadium.

As the Mass continued, I realized that this was an experience I would never forget, and at that final moment before Pope Benedict XVI disappeared from view to leave the cheering crowds of Washington, DC, the most unbelievably good feeling of happiness and love joined me and I know it will remain with me forever.

~Julie

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Papal Mass

On Thursday, we skipped school and went to the Papal Mass. Two of us were going anyway, because I was in the Children's Papal Choir. (Thanks Mrs. G!!!) Thanks to Fr. Mike, our Pastor, we got two more tickets. THANKS FR. MIKE!!! Now the whole family was able to go. Julie and Daddy were in Section 108 and had a clear view of the altar. It was a very hot day and the sun was in my eyes, but I had a great time singing all the songs. I was on the big screen that showed the Mass and the pre-Mass celebration.

There was one cantor, a priest, whose voice I loved the best! I thought that the Pope was very cool, and I liked his voice. The Pope-mobile was really awesome. Overall, I thought that the Mass went over well. The sang well, I thought, and it was organized.

Afterwards, there were lots of protests on the way out. Of course, I thought it was funny, the ideas they talked about. People were also selling shirts that were in the stadium for $15, but were $5 outside. People also sold flags. The way into the Metro was so crowded. When we finally got on, we had to stand.

When we got off, we went to Ben's Chili Bowl, a classic DC restaurant. Poor Dad had to go to work after Ben's. The rest of us went home and had TV time. We watched one of our favorite shows, Avatar. After that, we had homework and we zonked. (Went to sleep fast!)

~Zoli

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wow

That's my overall reaction to attending the Papal Mass at National Stadium. Wow!

Having the opportunity to take part was a truly wonderful and uplifting experience that is almost beyond words. To celebrate Mass with the Pope--the Shepherd of my Catholic faith--and 42,000 others, most of whom share the same basic beliefs--moved me more than I had ever predicted.

Since Julie and Steve sat with our parish and Z and I were separated by one section, I experienced the entire event in an almost private, surreal way.

While the pomp and circumstance was in and of itself very interesting and somewhat overwhelming, my goal was to focus my attention on the pure presence of this very spiritual man and successor to St. Peter. I wanted to be acutely aware, especially during his homily and his praying of the Eucharistic Prayer. As an aside, I smiled during the part that says:

Lord, may this sacrifice, which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world. Strengthen in faith and love your pilgrim Church on earth; your servant, Pope Benedict, our Bishop Donald, and all the bishops, with the clergy and the entire people your son has gathered here before you.

To think that he was in my midst as these words were spoken...

I wanted to be taken over by the beauty of the songs and my connection to this very special event. And I was.

As we were leaving the stadium, Julie asked me, "So, mom, did you cry at all during the mass?" She knows that I have the tendency to tear up at Mass sometimes when certain songs are sung. "From the moment I saw the Holy Father enter the stadium and pretty much throughout the entire Mass," I replied. I feel it come over me even now as I write about it.

It's amazing what can happen to you when you have a kāi xīng (open heart).

~Desi

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Singing for the Pope

As the Papal Mass approaches, I am preparing to sing for the Pope. The Mass is on Thursday, April 17, and I am in the children's choir. I feel that it is a high honor to be able to sing in the choir for the Pope. In our rehearsals, we have been talking about and practicing the songs. I am getting kind of nervous but excited as the Mass approaches.

~Zoli