An encounter with Pope Francis as he visited the Philippines on January 15-19
I’ve been asking myself for the past couple of days now, “What’s so special about seeing the Pope?”
I know the Philippines is very blessed to have the Pope visit our country even for a few days. He is the head of the church, the Vicar of Christ, God’s representative here on Earth and everywhere he goes, every place he visits, even for a couple of minutes is blessed, for his presence alone is a blessing.
But what is so special about seeing the pope first hand? Why do people wait for hours on end, waiting, under poor circumstances, hoping to have a glimpse? Why do you need to seem him first hand when you can see him on television screens, on the internet, in pictures? What makes it different to see the pope personally?
I was pondering about these things yesterday as I awaited his arrival for the Pope’s “Encounter with Families” at the MOA Arena.
Our family was lucky enough to have tickets for the event. Although ours was only for the South Open Parking and not inside the Arena, we were still lucky to have assigned seats, unlike the others waiting outside on the streets, standing, crowding for space, just to have a glimpse of the Pope as he pass by.
You might be wondering why I was asking and in deep thought about answering the question “What’s so special about seeing the Pope?” when I already have a good opportunity to see him first hand.
Well before I learned about this opportunity and even before the Pope’s plane landed at Villamor Airbase on January 15. I was thinking of posting this question on Facebook to get some answers, but I couldn’t quit phrase the question just right. “If given the opportunity, why do you want to see the Pope?”, “What’s so special about seeing the Pope” and many others but most of the questions may be negatively interpreted as “Why bother see the Pope?” So I didn’t post it, as others might misinterpret it and think of me as some (insert your own bias and prejudice here)
Back to the opportunity my family and I were given at “Encounter with Families”. The event was scheduled to start at 6PM since the Pope will arrive at the venue around 5.30PM. We came and went inside the venue at 10:30AM. Once you’re inside, you are not allowed to go out, on the ticket, it says “For security purposes, outside food and drinks will not be allowed” so being the law abiding, obedient citizens we were, we did not bring anything, although you may buy some food and drink inside the venue (you have to wait in line for at least an hour to buy beverages, that long!), there were also portalets for when nature calls (and we all know what happens in portalets after a lot of people have used it). So we were there early, waiting early, under the heat of the sun and sometimes the cloudy skies (thank God for that!), waiting patiently for the arrival of the Pope.
For 8 hours straight, we were at the mercy of nature waiting, all we had to cover ourselves were handkerchief, scarves, caps, and paper fans (since bringing umbrellas were not allowed). That’s when I started to think, why do I even bother wait under harsh circumstances just to see the Pope? My chance of seeing him wasn’t even certain, were weren’t even sure if he’ll pass us by, or if we’ll even get a glimpse of him seeing as there were 18,000 people inside the parking lot with us.
And then the Pope encounter… he passed by and around the venue although not very near us, we were able to get a glimpse of the Pope, not much physical difference than in the televisions. Nothing special really, the crowd was going wild, standing on their chairs, shouting, waving their hands and flags. It almost kind of ruined the experience since you don’t get to focus much on the pope. It was all a very quick moment and then it was over. He was inside the Arena to meet the families inside and start the program.
After having a glimpse of the Pope first hand, was I able to answer my question? No. I was even disappointed at not seeing him clearly, with the entire crowd and their hands covering, hindering my view of the Pope. I was disappointed at what I felt like a failed encounter, a wasted opportunity, I felt defeated, I felt like I didn’t do my best and gave my all to see or make a way to see the pope clearly despite having a great opportunity of seeing him, despite waiting for 8 hours straight just to see him, I really felt saddened and frustrated. I sulked in my chair in gloom.
I was thinking, it’s over, the Pope’s gone and inside the venue already, we won’t be able to see him anymore, let’s get out of here and have a good meal under the coolness of air-conditioner. Good thing we didn’t (or should I say we couldn’t since they locked the gates).
Having heard and watched from the LCD screens about the sharing of 3 families given the special opportunity to tell the pope their family’s life story was really inspiring, especially the story about disability, the hardships of being deaf parents to their hearing children, problems with communicating with society in general and how they have coped up with it their entire lives and not lost hope.
After their sharing was the reading of the Holy Gospel and Pope Francis’ homily. It was this part that I finally understood the significance of Pope Francis’ visit.
There was really nothing special about seeing the pope first hand, even if you get to touch or kiss his hand, he was still an ordinary person like everyone else. What so special about him is that he is the spokesperson of God/Jesus here on earth. I finally understood that hearing his homily. How it inspired me to not lose hope, to do better. His 3 points on his homily were: (1) Resting in prayer. the importance of prayer, of communicating with God and having our full trust in Him and His plans for us, the pope called this “resting in the Lord” (I especially liked his personal story about Saint Joseph and how he keeps a sleeping statue of him on his desk to help him in times of difficulties). (2) Rising with Joseph and Mary. After praying and resting with the Lord, we must do our part and rise and act God’s will for us; for each of us “has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.” (3) Our Christian duty to be prophetic voices in the midst of our communities. How we should love one another, and share this love to others for with loving others, we become a blessing, we become active agents of God’s love to others in the good works that we do “and in doing this, we prove faithful to the prophetic mission which we have received in baptism”.
These points he mentioned in his homily is not new to us, we all know this, we have heard this countless of times, and yet we often forget about it, and it is this simple message of the Pope to us that reminds us of our purpose in life, be an inspiration to others, a blessing in everything we do, and not lose the connection we have with God through prayer.
I also liked how Pope Francis warned us about Ideological Colonization. Which is very rampant in our world today, even in our religious country, the Philippines, this Ideological Colonization is easily easing its way to us, through the media and the society we live in today. This ideological colonization talks about the destruction of families and the Pope reminded us that nations are built on families and thus we should defend against this external ideas that are not natural to the sacredness of the family, that we should “protect life from conception to natural death”; and finally, to “never lose the ability to dream.”
It is not about seeing the Pope that is important; It’s all about recognizing his importance, his role in the church, the purpose why we have a pope and that is, to lead us to the path that God intends us to follow. He is God’s voice here on earth, our guide, a representative of God and Jesus Christ here on Earth. A tangible manifestation of holiness in a society shadowed and overcast by darkness and negativity that continuously tries to destroy life and humanity.