POPE FRANCIS’ SURPRISE VISIT WITH PILGRIM CYCLISTS – POPE SAYS PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL MUST BE A “GREAT WORK OF MERCY” – HOW ONE PILGRIM LIVED CANONIZATION DAY

The past several days, as you might well imagine, have been memorable beyond telling. They have been filled with the beautiful excitement of a canonization, with hours of television and radio reports and commentary, with shared meals with so many friends from the U.S. and abroad who knew and loved and volunteered with and for St. Teresa of Calcutta – everyone’s “Mother Teresa.”

I hope to find some quiet time to sit down and reflect what all this has meant to me personally – Mother Teresa’s life and work, the stories I heard from those who knew her so well, who knew she was a saint long before her official canonization. A saint of our times! Our days! Someone we knew and saw and heard and read about.

What have I learned about her life that has changed mine? Have my thoughts, my work, my priorities changed in some way – or been added to by what I learned?

I want to ponder all of this because I do know I am a changed person.

POPE FRANCIS’ SURPRISE VISIT WITH PILGRIM CYCLISTS

(Vatican Radio) A surprise meeting on Tuesday morning in the Vatican made the day for a group of young pilgrims from northern Italy who has cycled to Rome in pilgrimage for this Holy Year of Mercy. (photo news.va)

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Pope Francis himself stepped out of his Vatican residence at Casa Santa Marta and into the square in front of the building to greet the young ‘pilgrim cyclists’ and to bestow his blessing upon them and ‘don Andrea’, the priest who has accompanied them on their pilgrimage.

The young people traveled on bicycle down the backbone of Italy from two parishes that are part of the Milan diocese. They intend to resume their pilgrimage with a torchlight procession “on wheels”.

“Now that we have received Pope Francis’ apostolic blessing, we shall set off with extra joy,” they said.

POPE SAYS PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL MUST BE A “GREAT WORK OF MERCY”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday encouraged the President of the Vatican’s ‘Bambino Gesù’ pediatric hospital to continue to promote the institution’s good work and promised his personal contribution.

In the course of a private audience with Mariella Enoc – at the head of the children’s hospital since February 2015 – the Pope assured her of his continuing support and said the hospital must evermore be a ‘great work of mercy’.

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During the heart-to-heart conversation that ‘Bambino Gesù’ President Mariella Enoc said took place in an atmosphere of great friendliness and intimacy, Pope Francis expressed deep interest in an ongoing charity project that sees the Vatican institution actively supporting the Pediatric Hospital of Bangui, in the Central African Republic.

“The Pope even pledged his personal help ” – she told Vatican Radio  – “an economic contribution that will help us ‘adopt’ the African hospital and help it to grow by providing medical formation, by establishing a school that specializes in pediatric care and by building new wards”.

Enoc also spoke to the Pope about how the Bambino Gesù Hospital has been active in helping support refugees and about an agricultural initiative in collaboration with FAO and the Italian state that aims to provide long-term solutions for the poor in the Central African Republic.

Of course much attention was dedicated to the work carried out by the pediatric hospital itself that offers quality health care, taking in children from across the world, many of whom from families who cannot afford to pay.

And this is exactly what the ‘Pope’s Hospital’ that has its roots in the Gospel is expected to do – Enoc pointed out – as she presented Francis with the gift of a one of the beautiful “Madonna of Bangui” photographs that are part of the Bambino Gesù project to raise money for its sister hospital in the Central African Republic.

After the audience Mariella Enoc presented the ‘Santa Marta pediatric dispensary’, where a team of Bambino Gesù doctors offer voluntary service, with an ultrasound scanner as sign of concrete commitment to help in the Pope’s works of mercy.

HOW ONE PILGRIM LIVED CANONIZATION DAY

I thought this was a terrific description of what it was like to participate in the canonization Sunday of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. The entire story reminded me of many similar moments I’ve spent getting to St. Peter’s Square for a big Vatican event, both as a pilgrim and as a journalist! This was written by Terry Wilson for the Dispatch-Argus QCOnline:

Terry Wilson is business development/marketing director for the Dispatch/Argus. He traveled to Rome last week with a tour group of 52 people primarily from the Quad-Cities area. The tour was organized by The Catholic Messenger newspaper and led by the Rev. Marty Goetz.

ROME — We began the day with a 4 a.m. wake-up call and were loaded on the bus and headed to St. Peter’s Square by 5 a.m., more than five hours before the canonization service for Mother Teresa was scheduled to begin.

As our bus neared Vatican City, there were people everywhere. Buses usually park underground there, but the lot was closed due to security and the volume of traffic. We were dropped off a few blocks outside Vatican City. Enza Volpe, our Italian-born tour manager, made things so much easier.

We were provided small fold-up chairs, and with Enza leading the way, we headed toward St. Peter’s Square. After a short walk, we found the streets already blocked with people waiting. The line continued to build behind us, and from the side streets intersecting ours.

The wait in line was an international experience. Waiting along with the rest of us were priests and nuns from many different countries and orders. It would seem that with all of us there to celebrate someone like Mother Teresa, the wait would have been an orderly social exchange. It was just the opposite. The longer we waited, the more people tried to reposition themselves for the best spot, and the pushing and shouting began to escalate. Finally the first of two security checkpoints was opened, and the line began to move.

We had arranged to gather at a meeting place after the service, so getting separated wouldn’t be a concern. Once the mass of people began pushing us through the security funnel, our group was indeed separated, but we all managed to gather in small groups. Our English was of no use at this point, but fortunately for me, Enza ended up with a group of five of us that managed to stay together in the crowd. This gave us the advantage of knowing what the guards and security officers were saying, and helped us move forward to the second security check, just outside St. Peter’s Square.

Once through the second security check, we entered St. Peter’s Square. The sight was breathtaking, with the basilica directly in front of us and with everything now focused on the stage and altar that had been placed on the stairway leading into the church. The view from where we stood was good enough that we decided to stay there rather than moving back into the crowd closer to the front.

We moved to a wooden railing that had been installed to created a corridor between us and the next section and staked our turf. Several other members of our group spotted us, and 10 of us ended up together. We still had several hours to wait, so we made use of our small stools and watched the crowd continue to grow.

There was security everywhere you looked, from the Swiss Army Guard in their colorful uniforms and Vatican Police in their uniforms to numerous security personnel dressed in perfectly pressed black suits.

As St. Peter’s Square continued to fill, so did our area. We were all glad we had the railing with the open corridor next to us, since it offered some relief from the pushing and shoving crowd that surrounded us as we waited. St. Peter’s Square was soon completely filled, and you could see the roads outside the square were also filled with people who couldn’t fit inside.

They began playing music from the stage, and then about 45 minutes before the service started, reciting the Rosary. A peace began to come over the crowd, and listening to the Rosary in many different languages, recited in unison by thousands of people, was truly beautiful. It didn’t change the fact that we were all uncomfortable, standing in direct sunlight with the temperatures in the mid 80s, and people were still vying for the best spot to stand, but  we were in a holy place to celebrate a holy woman.

Soon Pope Francis was center stage, and the service began. We were all given a 112-page soft- cover book with the order of the service, but since neither the books nor the service were in English, it was hard to follow what was happening.

But there was no doubt what was going on when Cardinal Amoto began speaking to the pope. Before Pope Francis could finish his reply, the crowd broke out in excited applause.

The feeling of being present for such a historic moment is hard to explain. I was interviewed by a reporter while standing in the crowd. My answer to her was how personal Mother Teresa’s sainthood is to each of us. This is someone from our time, that we watched, knew and grew to love for all she did for others.

One of the people traveling with my group is Sister Mary Seraphin Beck, OSF, whose Mother House is in Davenport, across the street from St. Alphonsus. She stated simply that being there made us think of not only who we are, but more important, who we want to be.

As the Mass continued, I couldn’t imagine how people were going to move forward for communion, but everything was well organized, and knowing the crowd of over 100,000 was so packed in that people couldn’t move, what seemed like hundreds of priests, including our own Father Goetz, moved out into the crowd to serve communion to the people.

As the service came to a conclusion, anticipation began to build. Would Pope Francis take his customary ride out into the crowd, standing in the Popemobile? We watched the Swiss Guard and the other security officers begin to survey our area of the crowd closely. We then realized the railing we had decided to stand next to was creating the corridor for the Popemobile’s route. Soon he entered the vehicle, the crowd cheered, and out he went to the people. He did indeed pass directly in front of us!

In many ways, attending the canonization was hot, uncomfortable and unpleasant. But not if you compare it to the trials Mother Teresa suffered in her lifetime. It was an amazing experience to see over 100,000 people from all over the world gathered to honor the faith and sainthood of Mother Teresa.

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