All of the discerners, pre-postlant, postulants, and some
of the Sisters who came to Philly for the Papal pilgrimage.
Three postulants, one pre-postulant, nine discerners, four vocation directors, and one companion Sister, gathered from every corner of the country as pilgrims ready to greet the Pope in Philadelphia. Our trip to Philadelphia was indeed a pilgrimage. We gathered with open hearts and flexible plans, and by flexible, I mean we had no tickets for any of the Papal events and were expecting to sleep outside in order to claim a patch of grass for the Papal Mass. Fortunately for us, God had greater plans (as always).
During the World Meeting of Families convention the week prior, the Sisters asked around and were able to acquire enough tickets for all of us to attend the Festival of Families that Saturday night. This was perhaps the first strike of Divine Providence for our small group of eager pilgrims. We were so thrilled and couldn’t imagine the other ways God would grace our pilgrimage.
On our way to the Festival of Families with
our signs and prayers.
During the World Meeting of Families convention, the Sisters were also able to secure nine tickets for the Papal Mass on Sunday, and we drew numbers to see who would be able to pass behind the gate for the Mass, and who would celebrate from the non-ticketed section. Although we were thrilled to have these tickets, the idea of splitting up didn’t settle well with this group of pilgrims (#community), so signs were created for each of us to wear on our shirts and backpacks. Some read, “Will trade prayers for 5 Papal Mass tickets. Love, Daughters of Charity.” We set out for the Festival of Families with our signs, filled with hope that generous hearts would provide the additional tickets we needed.
|Wearing our signs at the Festival of |
Group shot with my youngest brother, a seminarian with the
Archdiocese of Denver, CO.
|Gathering outside a security check point at 5:00am.|
Tying my prayer handkerchief to a tree in the
Prayer Grotto outside the Cathedral. During
the Papal parade before mass, Pope Francis
stopped at the grotto and prayed for all the
We approached the Convention Center and followed our confident vocation director as she approached the man sitting at the table to inquire about the tickets. He looked at her, and looked at us. Finally he said that he needed to check on something and asked us to wait. While the others ventured to the bathroom, I sat down and said a prayer. That Sunday was the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, one of the founders of the Daughters of Charity, so I decided to say a prayer with Vincent. It went something like this: “Ok, Vincent. I know that you ministered to the rich, VIPs but also ministered to the poor, common people on the margins. Who do you want us to celebrate mass with on your feast day?”
Displaying our miracle VIP Papal Mass
tickets. Happy Feast of St. Vincent de Paul!
The best part of receiving the VIP tickets was being able to pass on our regular tickets and prime seating on the grass to folks on the other side of the fence who did not have any tickets. We passed on the generosity that was shared with us, which was something St. Vincent totally would have done in this situation.
Before I knew it, we were walking in front of the altar, the Eucharistic table where Pope Francis would be standing in just a few short hours. I could never have imagined that I would ever be that physically close to the model of humility I have felt so spiritually close to for years. Later, as we stood at the fence and Pope Francis rode by waving, I yelled in my best Spanish, “Oro por usted! Ora por me!” (I pray for you! Pray for me!) I’m pretty sure he heard me (or at least that’s what I tell myself.)
One of my fellow pilgrims snapped this photo of the Pope,
while I was yelling my best Spanish.
Later, as the Liturgy of the Eucharist began and this Bishop prayed the Eucharistic prayer, I found a Priest behind the altar. I found a humble Priest celebrating the Supper of the Lamb, and I was at the table with him, accompanied by a couple million of our closest friends. As he lifted the Host and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world…” tears streamed down my face, and I felt such a sense of intimacy with Christ as everyone gathered miles down Benjamin Franklin Parkway responded in one voice, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” My heart was so full, it was bursting! Divine Providence strikes yet again!
So as I have attempted to journey down from this mountain top experience, I have reflected on this powerful encounter with our Lord, through a pilgrimage with a Priest named Francis. I have learned that if you journey with an open heart and trust in Divine Providence, life as you know it will transcend beyond your expectations. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for this experience, and how I feel so unworthy to have received such a precious gift. However, I hope that by sharing this experience, may we all remember to trust in Divine Providence. Who knows. You might end up on stage during a Papal Mass.
|So long, Papa Francisco! Come back soon!|