About 100 people skipped Sunday's Buffalo Bills victory over the Miami Dolphins for another kind of community activity: a special telecast of Pope Francis' closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia screened at St. Leo the Great Church in Amherst.
"It will help make people feel a little bit closer to the Holy Father, which is always a good thing," said Msgr. Robert Zapfel, pastor. "People ask why, 'Why should we come to church when we can (see) this at home, but when you're in Church, it's a special prayer setting and you're praying for families with other good people. We are encouraging people to pray for their own family, their parish family and the family of the church around the world too."
While the St. Leo the Great screening was not a regular Catholic Mass, audience members still stood and participated with the screen when prompted. During his homily, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to notice the small moments in daily family life, such as a hug or a great meal, connect us to faith.
"Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home," the Holy Father said. "Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love."
Msgr. Zapfel agrees that the six-day papal visit to the United States was a great success for the popular pontiff.
"What a great experience," Msgr. Zapfel said. "One of our staff members was talking before the pope arrived that it was going to be a historic visit. I said, 'We've had other popes come,' but I tell you, she was right. There's a lot of enthusiasm. He speaks as a man of integrity and people pick that up. He not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. He doesn't live in the papal apartments; he lives in a simple guesthouse. He doesn't get into limousines when he's in our country; he's got the smallest car (in the motorcade). From him, that's not just a gesture, that's a lifestyle.
"The Holy Father has brought a couple of things: His message about family values and the dignity of family life at all stages is so critical, his concern for the poor and very especially the mercy of God."
St. Leo the Great's new video screen debuted to screen the papal Mass Sunday, but the parish intends to regularly use it for what Msgr. Zapfel calls "Plus 10 Sundays."
"Starting next month, we're going to ask people that for one weekend a month, stay 10 more minutes after Mass," he said. "In those 10 minutes, we'll give them a good adult education video. It might be an update on the sacraments, a teaching of the Church or a different perspective on the Gospel. Whatever it is, it will give us something to grow in our faith, and that's the first step of evangelization by bringing the Gospel of Jesus to others. We hope this initiative isn't too much time to give and will give them something positive to talk about."