The pilgrimage to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families and Washington, D.C., to see Pope Francis took plenty of sacrifices. We traveled by bus, train and foot, walking sometimes miles to see him. The weather was cool and windy at times. At other times, the sun was beating down on us - yet, none of it matters; we just wanted to be in his presence. There was hunger, although it may have been temporary, and personal needs that had to be put on hold for long periods of time. Through the sacrifice, we prayed many rosaries. We prayed for peace. We prayed that Congress would listen to his message and take it to heart.
The excitement and the cheering of the crowd as he arrived was something out of this world. I felt joy in being with all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I can get an idea of what the Kingdom is about because, although we were many, we treated each other with so much love and respect. At one point, in anticipation of seeing the pope, the whole West Lawn became silent even though there were thousands of people. A youth that was standing by me whispered, "Why is it so quiet?" No one answered him. I don't think anyone knew why, it just happened, a mystery. To see and feel the love that the people present had for our pope and for our Church was an awesome experience.
Once the pope entered the White House, the cheers began again. We listened to the address to Congress. Something that inspired me, especially during this time of violence and racial unrest, was when he said, "Let us remember the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ... Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves." Then he added, "If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development."
Isn't that what the Black Lives Matter movement, the refugees, the poor and powerless are asking for? I also loved how he used four of our greatest leaders to give his message - Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton - to convey his message of dreams for liberty and justice for all of us.
After addressing Congress, he came out to the White House lawn. Everyone began to cheer as he came to the balcony, and then there was silence so we could hear his message. The pope blessed all of us who were present.
What do I love about this pope? He not only speaks the truth, but he teaches by his actions. He is truly Christ Vicar here on earth. Let us pray for our Pope Francis and thank him for the gift he is giving us of the Jubilee of Mercy which will begin Dec. 8, and end Nov. 20, 2016. It is a year where the church is asked to help every person to encounter the mercy of God the Father.