In case you just woke up from some deep slumber or have been living in a jungle and just returned to civilized society, I feel like it is my duty and obligation as a human being to inform you that His Holiness Pope Francis graced us with his presence this past weekend. Many members of the Saint Joseph’s University community had the chance to see him in person either when he drove down City Ave., at the events happening downtown, or when he stopped by campus. I am lucky to be able to say that I was one of the people who had the opportunity of seeing him this weekend!
I not only got to see Pope Francis drive down City Avenue on Saturday afternoon, but I, also, got to see him celebrate Sunday mass. I volunteered through SJU to be a Communion Assistant. Originally, I was told that my responsibilities included sitting near the priests who would be serving Communion, and when the time came I would be escorting him to a certain spot on the parkway, holding an official World Meeting of Families umbrella over him, and being there for him as he distributed communion. When I got the email for this opportunity I pounced on it because:
- I would get to go to the Papal Mass and;
- I would get to be near the pope.
Sunday morning came and with other SJU volunteers, I walked to the Mann Center, boarded the shuttle taking me downtown, and waited for further instructions for the day. When the time came, for the organizers of the Papal mass to give us further details, we learned that only a certain number of people could be present at the mass and everybody else would be going down to the Basilica to assist the deacons stationed there in giving Communion to the people who did not have tickets to the mass but were lined up on Logan Square to watch it on a Jumbo Tron.
I, of course, was one of the people sent down to the Basilica. A lot of people were super bummed, and rightfully so, but I was resolute on keeping up high spirits. We thought we were going to be seeing the Pope. We thought that we would be at the mass, but now that idea was kind of crushed.
So after making the mile long walk from the Art Museum steps, a group of us sat in the Basilica listening to the priest in charge give us directions. But he was interrupted by a World Meeting of Family’s volunteer informing us that the pope would be driving right in front of the Basilica, and was coming to look at the Mary, Undoer of Knots Grotto that was made specifically for Pope Francis’s visit
We made a mad dash out of the Basilica and lined the streets. After a few minutes, we heard the crowds near us cheering and screaming, and heard the police sirens. The excitement in the air was palpable. And then right before my eyes, I see Pope Francis in the pope mobile smiling and waving to everyone. My eyes follow him and the car, and I see it stop! The group dashes over to the grotto and people are trying to get us close as security will possibly let them. I still don’t know how I did it and probably will never figure it out but I managed to get to the front (for once being under 5’4” has its advantage!). So I’m standing there and see him coming towards me and then before I know it, he’s right in front of me! If in that moment I had tripped, I would have fallen on Pope Francis’s feet. So, I saw him bless the grotto, then he got back in the pope mobile and he was off, on his way to mass.
I was shaking for a solid ten minutes after everything. I still am in shock! I went to the Basilica expecting that the only way I was going to see Pope Francis was on the TV screens in the Basilica, but little did I know that he would be standing a little over six feet away from me!