Final Thoughts On Our Pilgrimage

As we were driving into Indiana last night, it was after the sun had went down over the horizon, but the colorful splendor of its’ setting was filling the western sky with a beautiful, warm glow. There were clouds overhead, but there was a break just before the horizon, almost as if a curtain was being dropped on the day. As we continued towards Indianapolis – towards home – the curtain of clouds kept dropping lower and lower, but the glow of the setting sun still shown a little until when we got home.

It was as if God was lifting up the curtain, peaking under, making sure we were making it home OK, until when we got off at the 116th Street exit, he let the curtain fall on this pilgrimage as if to say, welcome home. Job well done, my good and faithful servant.

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World Meeting of Families – Papal Mass: Speechless

I don’t know what to say. As special as yesterday was in seeing Pope Francis up close, today was 100 times better. And the Papal Mass was simply amazing. It was the most spiritual and special and peaceful and beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. I’m not sure I can put it into words right now what today meant, and what we felt. So a lot of this post may be random thoughts. I’ll be able to put some more elegant thoughts and words together after my 10 hour drive home tomorrow. 🙂

We got there early today, and after shuffling around found a perfect spot right at 21st street and Ben Franklin Parkway. The crowds were sooo much bigger today, and people were crowding in. But we had our spot by the fence in prime position for the Papal parade on Pope Francis’ way to celebrate Mass. And when he got to us, he stopped, right in front of us and the secret service brought two babies out of the crowd, one right over my son and the Pope kissed them!  Just a beautiful and amazing sight.

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Festival of Families – Love and Energy

Wow! I am exhausted, so todays post is going to be a bit of a short one…:) And besides, I’m still processing the day, and it’s hard to write it all out right now, so a lot more will come out at a later time. But we started the day early. We were up and out of the hotel at 9:30am and walked to the Cathedral where the Pope was celebrating Mass. We waited for over an hour for him to come out, but he must have snuck out a side door because we did not see him. But the energy and the atmosphere was amazing!  During the Mass, they showed the Mass on large jumbo-trons and we listened to it over the speakers, and in quite a stunning moment during the Gospel Acclamation, some of the clouds moved out of the way and a circular rainbow showed around the sun, and lasted for the duration of Mass. Truly the Holy Spirit was looking down on the day!

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World Meeting of Families – Day 4: Security

When we walked out of the hotel this morning to head to the convention center, it was a different city. Many of the downtown streets were void of traffic, concrete barriers at both ends. We walked a block, and we saw more barriers. We turned north on our normal route to the convention center and were told we had to go through a secure checkpoint. We got through the security and there were just a scattering of people, but then an important looking figure and his entourage walked up to us – Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. He made a beeline for the 3 of us and asked, “Did you just come through there?  How was it?”  And then he proceeded to talk to us, ask us where we were from, and talk to Joseph about school. When he asked Joseph his name, Mayor Nutter said, “Joseph, that’s my Confirmation name!”  Finally he told us a bit about City Hall which loomed in the distance, and then he gave us three commemorative coins for the Papal visit with the City Hall and the City’s seal on the back.

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World Meeting of Families – Day 3: New Evangelization in HD!

Busy day today… We drove in for the first time (took the train the other days) and were able to check into our hotel in the morning. We are at 17th and Chestnut St. – near the epicenter of all that will be happening this weekend. The busyness in downtown Philadelphia is increasing by the moment as the City prepares for Pope Francis. Add to that the excitement the Pope already being in D.C. and now New York and the anticipation has only further increased. People are flocking into the City in droves now, from every direction. Vendors on the streets selling souvenirs, the faithful seeing the sites, it is truly a great scene.

But with all the excitement and anticipation – the reason the Pope is coming here, the reason he has come to this country, in light of what others may say, is because of this World Meeting of Families.

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World Meeting of Families – Day 2: A Story of Reversal

“We each are a story of reversal. And this reversal happens in the family through Christ.”  – Cardinal Robert Sarah

This is how Wednesday began, a keynote address by Cardinal Robert Sarah from Guinea. I cannot understate nor truly put words to the feeling I have in seeing so many high profile Cardinal’s and Bishops from the Church, from around the world who have come to Philly for this conference. This is not just some conference that the organizers put together every 3 years and get an appearance from the Pope, like a presidential campaign stop. The Holy See and the Catholic Church is fully invested in this meeting of families, and this is made extremely apparent by the sheer number of high-level clergy who are here – and fully engaged. I truly feel that Philadelphia is the center of the Catholic Church for a week, and that the Vatican has come here for us, for families across the globe. And you know what? It has. And this will be even more apparent in the coming days with the arrival of Pope Francis. This meeting of families is why he is coming to America!

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World Meeting of Families – Day 1: An Amazing Start

The day started a bit slow. It was great that we checked-in yesterday because it allow us to have a bit of a leisurely morning. The conference didn’t start until noon, and so we took the train in from my Aunt’s house in the suburbs to Jefferson Station downtown, and got there a little early so we could walk around. We started by grabbing a bite to eat, which at the Reading Market is a fun experience in and of itself!  Let’s just say we can’t wait until lunch tomorrow…:)  We then meandered our way to the convention center, and along the way, passed numerous groups of people, each with their green conference badges and backpacks, but many in their traditional clothing from their respective countries – Nigeria, Costa Rica, Argentina, Vietnam… Just to name a few. Over 20,000 attendees from over 100 countries. People were wearing their countries flags around them – you would think we were at the Olympics or the World Cup Soccer. It was definitely very cool!

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We’re Here!

We made it to Philly!  And let me tell you, this city if electric, and the congress of families has not even started, nor is the Pope even in the country yet!  Everyone is just abuzz about the Pope’s visit and the 17+ thousand faithful attending the World Meeting of Families. We went to the convention center today to check-in, and it was so neat seeing people from various countries – kids and adults, families together – laughing,singing, and dancing. This is unlike anything I have ever witnessed, and this was just check-in. People of so many different backgrounds and cultures – all here for the love of the family.

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Why We Do This…

Well, the road today was definitely not the one less traveled… Day 1 of our journey takes us to Somerset, PA where we are spending the night, before finishing the drive to Philadelphia tomorrow. There seemed to be a lot of traffic for a Sunday, which made for a long day considering we were up early for 7:30AM Mass prior to leaving Indy. We started the morning with an early, quiet, yet very spiritual Mass to send us on our way. And in a special blessing, my family and I were asked to carry the gifts to the alter for the Offertory during Mass… Knowing that this is going to be a special, yet busy week, starting the week in such a calm and blessed setting was a perfect way to begin this journey!

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World Meeting of Families – Getting Ready!

 

It’s starting to get real. Facebook and Twitter are buzzing with activity and all kinds of posts from people about the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis to conclude the conference. We’re looking at the itineraries, conference schedule, speakers, festivities and of course, where the Pope will be in the city and the parade routes.

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