Whew. I made it back home from Philly early yesterday morning. I am happy to say no pilgrims were lost along the way and was so happy to be near and receive a blessing from Papa Francesco.
We loaded up Thursday evening and drove through the night. On Friday morning we hit the ground running: gourmet Philly cheese steak sandwiches for breakfast, see the Liberty Bell, and then attend a talk by Gianna Emanuela Molla on the life/witness of her mother. Saturday was full of long lines, more radio interviews, LOTS of people, and waiting seven hours to get a glimpse and receive a blessing from the Holy Father. It was SO worth the wait. Sunday was Mass with Pope Francis, another papal parade, and the zombie apocalypse exodus out of the city to get back to the bus. Not even kidding when I say for second I felt like I was in The Walking Dead.
Amid the exhaustion and excitement for being able to attend #PopeinPhilly, I find myself thinking more and more how the witness and style of Pope Francis is changing me as a Catholic Christian from the inside out. There is something so fascinating and unique about him, that all people (believers or not) are drawn to. Heck on our bus to Philadelphia, we had both a Jewish and woman with no faith or religion join our bus trip all because they see God in him and just feel drawn to him. #verycool
This past week, was one of excitement in the United States for the Catholic Church. But I think its also a time of hopeful anticipation and expectant faith for Catholics. It is a chance for all our us to be deeply challenged and stretched like rubber bands as a result of this tangible witness to God's fatherly love visiting our country. And from my own journey to Philadelphia, I am realizing how much his witness is messing my faith up in big ways.
During the flight back to Rome, Francis once again spoke to journalists on a wide array of many issues. One that caught my eye was when a reporter asked him is it good for the Church if the Pope is a star; referring to how in the last week he has become a star to many. His response? "Do you know what the title was of the Pope that ought to be used? Servant of the servants of God. It's a little different from the stars, which are beautiful to look at. But the Pope must be, must be the servant of the servants of God. How many stars have we seen that go out and fall. It is a fleeting thing. On the other hand, being the servant of the servants of God is something that doesn't pass."
Quite often in my own life, I'm not sure it's God I want to do exceptional things for, but for me. I want to do exceptional things for myself, for my name's sake, for my own reputation and exaltation. But calling myself a Christian, means I am striving to take the humble path...the path of getting my hands and heart messy with serving others. More and more I find myself seeing in life where I need to knocked down from pride to grow more in humility.
2. Care less what others think of me
Had Pope Francis read the book Boundaries?? While I think it is unlikely, I am constantly inspired how the Pope handles those who constantly criticize him being to leftist or to conservative or not speaking enough to this particular issue, etc. He just doesn't freaking care what others think of him, only God's opinion matters. And I love that.
Recently on his flight leaving Cuba, the Holy Father was asked if he is even a Catholic/is the Pope a leftist. His response: "I am certain I have never said anything more that is in the social doctrine of the Church. I follow the church and this way I do not think I am wrong. Maybe I have given the impression of being a little bit to the left.
And if necessary, I'll recite the creed. I am available to do that." BOOM.
Doesn't sound like this pontiff needs to read Boundaries as much I as do ;)
3. Growing awareness of issues outside of #firstworldproblems
Ever since I have seen this hash tag, I've always hated it. It is like it reveals a deep ignorance and self-centeredness so prevalent in American culture. And I'll admit I am one of those Americans.
For a good portion of my life, I prided myself on being the best damn rule follower. Rules of my parents or my faith, I thought I was a good person because of those things. And then I realized how little love I had in my actions and attitudes to others. Having a Pope from a part of the world that has seen much suffering, evil, and pain of people has begun to open my eyes to the larger, bigger world outside of our borders. I am pretty embarrassed to admit that for many years I thought concern of social issues such clean water, the environment, world hunger crisis, etc. were issues the liberals took care of. I cringe now looking back at that ignorance and have had my eyes opened that I claim to be a Christian it should concern and upset me when those around the world go without and are mis-treated.
Reading his newest encyclical, I am yet again humbled and reminded that issues of social justice are not just for a particular party...but for all believers and people of good will to care about and become aware on.
"Let us remember the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' (Matthew 7:12). This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treats others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others grow, as we would like to helped ourselves...The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us." --Pope Francis address to Congress
4. Holiness is not about rules but little gestures of love
Like I said before, for a long time I prided myself on being the best damn rule follower. The older I get and the more I read what the Holy Father says, the more I am reminded that the way of love, compassion, understanding, and dialogue are truly the ways to live the joy of the Gospel.
"Faith opens a window to the presence and working of the Holy Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. 'Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name-a small gesture-will not go unrewarded', says Jesus (Mk 9:41). These little gestures we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different.. They are little signs of tenderness. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day's work. Love is shown by little things, attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. Jesus asks us to not hold back these little miracles. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as sign of his own living and active presence in our world." --Pope Francis homily at closing Mass
How we love God and each other through little actions and gestures are the true makings of a saint.
After World Youth Day in Brazil, Francis spoke of going out into the world and making a mess as a people of faith. Who knew how much of my heart and soul was such a mess on the inside. One of the things I love most about our Holy Father is that he challenges all of us, and he isn't calling us to anything he himself does not strive to live in his own life.
The spiritual life is one of self-reflection and openness to the hard parts of ourselves that need to become more like Jesus. And deep down, I am being woken up from spiritual amnesia to a more fuller life of really living the joy of the Gospel.