Pope in the City of Brotherly Love

it is a fine thing to answer the phone and listen to my 20 something grandson talk nonstop about being in the proximity of Pope Francis.

His assignment was to be at the Phila. airport at 6 AM to roll out and align the red carpet for God’s Vicar when he arrived. He was pulled off his assignment on the Parkway, and was bummed about it, thinking he’d miss his chance to be near the Pontiff. His surprise was waiting.

He could have reached out and touched the Holy Father. The carpet was laid properly in no time flat, and my grandson had time to line himself up along the carpet when the Pope arrived. Hearing this young man talk about his feelings was impressive. He sees many celebrities in his line of work, and was familiar with the presence of deep security everywhere, so he’s not star struck anymore. But this holy man commanded his full attention. He knew he was in the presence of someone very important to the world. He felt humbled and privileged to be where he was, offering the piece of help that was his purpose and pleasure. There he stood with the commissioner, the mayor, the governor, and the Pope. I think he must have had to pinch himself. Gave me chills to hear him tell me.

He recalled thoughts not registered in his head for years. Catholic school, his time as an acolyte, his priest, his childish resistance to the teaching. He thinks he’ll rethink all that and weigh it against this impossible experience for which he is so grateful.

He is very tired, the work grueling. He loves his job, the people he works with, the logistics of video screens on every corner for the throngs that can’t get close. The lockdown of the city….not a car in sight. Every one in foot traffic. The enormity of the size of security to protect the Pope, to ensure he is safe in this city. His is a challenging job with many rewards. No longer starry eyed, today he surprised himself with the enormity of the importance of the man.

This event is rubbing up against this year’s World Meeting of Families, which meets every third year in this city. So there is a lot going on. Who better than the Pope, the ultimate family champion, to be here with them.

He understands and recognizes his contribution to this once in a lifetime event. Amah, he said, there are Cardinals and Bishops everywhere I look! He said to see even one Cardinal in a lifetime is rare, and here he was, surrounded. He saw the hierarchy on foot clogging the street waiting for their vicar.

He said the city is like a movie set, with which he is very familiar. Every single person is a player. The streets with no traffic, happy people walking, walking, walking the long distances to their ticketed site, a million strong knowing they won’t all get close. Everyone is joyful, thrilled to host their religious leader. He said the texture of the city is one of pure love for the man. Smiles and tears of joy everywhere. He has never seen the like. I am so thankful he has this experience.

Today he is very proud of his city, happy for the work and its purpose. What an experience for a young Catholic man! And the day is not over. I am so thrilled for him! As he said, this is a time he will never forget I all his life.

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