Today's post is an attempt to summarize the incredible, joyful and exhausting day that we spent yesterday with our Holy Father, first at the celebration of Midday Prayer at St. Matthew Cathedral, and then at the Mass of Canonization of Father Junipero Serra at the National Shrine on the grounds of Catholic University. I simply don't understand how Pope Francis, who is an older man, is able to keep the pace that he does; the only possible explanation is the grace of the Holy Spirit!
First of all, let me comment on the extremely tight security measures that are being taken here.Those who have seen many heads of state and world figures come to the United States before are saying that this level of security here for Pope Francis' visit is unprecedented. Even all the Bishops, before boarding the buses to take us to all the scheduled events held yesterday, had to go through individual security screening, similar to getting on an airplane: our bags were individually examined, and all of us were individually "wanded" to make sure we didn't have anything dangerous on our person. It was quite an experience. The presence of security personnel from every branch of security services were visible everywhere. And yet the mood of the crowds who lined the streets and who were placed in restricted zones at the sight events was celebratory, joyful and upbeat. While there were some "protest" signs here and there along the way, by far the mood was one of unity and solidarity.
|The view from my seat during Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral.|
|The view from my seat as Pope Francis arrived.|
At the celebration of Midday Prayer, Pope Francis spoke to the 300+ bishops gathered together with him as a "brother bishop" and as a "loving father". At one point he said to us "I speak to you as Bishop of Rome---called by God in old age to watch over the unity of the Church and to encourage in charity the growth in faith and love in Christ." Pope Francis is very mindful of his chronological age, but he is age-less when it comes to speaking with youthful enthusiasm about the mission of the Church and our important role as bishops---to lovingly shepherd our people, to be in constant dialogue with all people no matter what disagreements they may have so that we can always see them as persons and not be distracted by their positions that may differ from ours. And he urged us to remain pastors who have an intense and rich life of prayer---prayer in union with the Person of Christ. I had the great privilege of being able to be one of a small delegation of bishops to greet the Holy Father personally, and I took that occasion to pass on to him the good wishes and requests for prayers that many of you sent to me through our diocesan website as well as the promise of prayers on behalf of all the faithful and clergy of our Diocesan Church for him.
The canonization Mass was absolutely beautiful. In less than two hours, and in a Mass celebrated mostly in Spanish, Pope Francis declared that Father Junipero Serra is now a Saint of the Church, "decreeing that he is to be venerated as such by the whole Church." It was a relatively simple, but very moving, rite held at the very beginning of the Mass. The remainder of the Mass was a wonderful celebration with 25,000 people gathered together on the grounds of Catholic University. The day was perfect----sunshine, breeze, and very comfortable in the outdoor setting. Thanks be to God, all has gone very well for this first full day of the Pope's visit.
May our dear Blessed Mother and all the saints, especially St. Junipero Serra, continue to watch over the remainder of our Holy Father's visit today as he addresses the joint session of Congress, as he visits with the homeless at a shelter served by Catholic Charities and as he prepares to travel to New York City where he will begin his special two day visit there this evening.
For me, I will be returning to Kalamazoo later today so that I can find ways to share the joy of this special encounter with Christ's Vicar on Earth with all of you. In particular, I look forward to the Mass with Families from around the Diocese on Saturday morning at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Portage.
May God bless you and keep us all in His loving care.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
+ Bishop Paul J. Bradley