I attended the Yankee Stadium Mass along with other parishioners from the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Manhattan's West Side. The photo above shows the view from our seats along the third-base line.
In the abstract, being part of the universal Catholic Church -- a body of perhaps one billion members around the world -- is digestible. But, to be in the presence of the head of this body three times in one week -- and doing so along with tens of thousands of other Catholics, is blessedly amazing ... and overwhelming.
I remember so well the Papal Mass in 1995 that was celebrated by Pope John Paul II on the Great Lawn of New York City's Central Park. It was the most amazing spiritual experience of my life -- an occasion of joy and community and love.
I was 19 years old then. Today, I am 31. In the intervening 11.5 years, I have changed, the church has changed, the world has changed. And, there is a new pope -- a new pope with different gifts and priorities and words.
I loved Pope John Paul II intensely. He inspired me in so many ways -- to be brave, to stand up for those in need and to serve my Church and my community. And, in the times of my failings, John Paul's words of truth and courage were often on my brain. I loved JPII the way you love a saint.
Over the course of the past week, I have come to love Pope Benedict XVI, as well. But, right now, this love is different from my love for JPII. I love B16 for what he is trying to teach all of us. I love him for his great desire to remind us of the nature of Christ and why He came into the world. I love him for his steadfastness and strength. Even when I don't agree with B16 on something, I still love him -- the way you love a grandfather.
It really is true what they say -- the crowds came to SEE Pope John Paul but they come to HEAR to Pope Benedict. At the two Papal Masses I attended this past week, the pope's homilies were the part of liturgies that I most anticipated.
Here's a graph from B16's homily at Yankee Stadium:
Real freedom, then, is God's gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on "the mind of Christ" (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the "apostolate" of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God's saving plan.
I also have to say that part of being emotionally overwhelmed by the Papal visit is caused by joy that the visit itself went so well and hit so many perfect notes: the important meeting with victims of clergy sexual abuse, the visit to the beautiful BNSIC, the visit to the synagogue, his Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and that wonderful event for youth at St. Joseph's Seminary.
There were so many things that could have gone sour -- but angels were clearly in the whirlwind.
No where was this more evident than from the reporting of the New York City media -- print and electronic. Anti-Catholic bias in the press? Not this week. Not in Gotham. The reporters and photographers and headline-writers fell in love with B16. He brought "HOPE" into their collective lexicon more than any presidential candidate could ever do.
The Gospel at Mass this Sunday, the fifth Sunday of Easter, was a good one for a Papal visit. In it, the apostles Thomas and Philip represent all humanity when they push Christ for proof that he is God -- despite Christ's reassurance them that He is going to prepare a place for them in the house of the Father.
From John Chapter 14:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Yesterday, after the Mass, I took the 4 train home. My end of the train car was filled with Mass-goers speaking in Spanish who said they grew up in Columbia, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Spain.
Among those people was a group of young nuns who told me they are from Columbia but work in Queens. They said their order is "Preachers of Jesus and Mary."
Below is a photo I took of three of the nuns checking out pictures they had taken of the Mass with the Pope: