UnknownThe most extraordinary thing was the silence. Gathered on the White House lawn with several thousand people, I had expected a bit of a mob: people jostling, shoving, pushing to get a better view. Instead, all was order, calm, and gentleness. Strangers shared their stories, faces lighting up as they discussed sisters who were nuns, or children who were about to make their first Communion. Many were vocal about Pope Francis: how they loved his emphasis on the poor, on justice, on the environment. How they loved his humility, the way he walks what he talks. Next to me, a man turned to a little girl who was a total stranger, and moved her ahead of him into a position with a better view. When he noticed that her mother was in Army uniform, he moved her ahead, too, over her protests: “You have served us; now it’s our turn to serve you.”

The center of DC was a car-free zone that day. Grandparents and grandchildren strolled the streets in safety, their laughter the loudest sound of all. People waited in line politely, patiently, almost reverently. Yes, reverently. They were not there to see another celebrity; their presence was an act of faith. For some, it was Catholic faith, eagerness to see the Vicar of Christ on earth. For others, it was faith in the vision that this man held up: a vision of decency, of a world in which the vulnerable did not get crushed, in which the sky was blue and the earth was green and the raging fires of greed were brought under the control of human beings.

When the President and Pope appeared, there were cheers. They cheered when the President talked, but it was different with Francis. The applause was muted and images-1uncertain, while the faces shone. It felt like we were in church. We were waiting for a touch of holiness, and that does not make you applaud. It makes you still your soul and be silent, like a child upon it’s mother’s breast. (Ps 131)

There was a child ahead of me; actually, two. A toddler was sitting on his father’s shoulders, playing with his daddy’s immaculate Army cap. His baby brother was in a pack on his mother’s back. When Francis began to speak, the baby began to cry out and point with insistent energy: not at Francis. Following the line of his arm, I saw an airplane passing overhead, and saw the scene anew. The Pope is a man I admire, a man of great holiness. But a tube of people flying through the sky: that’s a miracle! As were the phones with which we were calling our loved ones; the cameras that captured this scene to be played again and again; the people arrayed in all their differences, shining with quiet joy. Irenaeus wrote, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” We saw it today.

Spectators hoping for a glimpse of Pope Francis crowd the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, before the official state arrival ceremony where President Barack Obama will welcome the pope. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Spectators hoping for a glimpse of Pope Francis crowd the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, before the official state arrival ceremony where President Barack Obama will welcome the pope. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)


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7 Responses to Francis

  1. Therese says:

    Lovely–thanks for sharing this Deborah. Can feel the spirit all these miles away.

  2. Christian says:

    Thank you. What a beautiful description of the events. I am so pleased to hear that you were there.

  3. Millie Runner says:

    That was just beautiful, Deborah. I felt that, too. He literally had something for everyone. The
    greeting and loving wish he sent to all Jews, also in services today for Yom Kippur was
    remarkable, as well. I think he offered that during the St. Matthews Church prayer service. My own prayer is that we not lose you to investigative reporting! What a writer!

  4. Bob Sellery says:

    Outstanding that you could be there and see it as a religious welcoming instead of just some head of state. The Fiat said it all. I gave up 15 minutes of stretching at the gym this morning to watch on TV. Love ceremonies in DC, especially the Marines.

  5. Molly Frost says:

    I too am impressed with this pope, especially for his taking a stand on the environment. And his presence does seem to make people behave. However, I’m troubled by the way he’s always treated like a rock star or like royalty. Protestants are so very far from fainting at the thought of a bishop being near them. It’s a cult of personality and adoration not unfamiliar to a teenage girl swooning at a rock concert. Not sure this is taking us closer to God.

  6. Marian le Grelle says:

    It is a sign of God’s deep love for me that he would use you to say to my family everything I have been trying to tell them since I became Catholic. There’s greater treasure, and it is everything you described it as, silent, reverent, caring, there’s a reason that the last will be first and that’s because all the saints keep giving the last a step forward. There’s life, children and lots of them and somehow they behave themselves. There’s people of every culture, colour, and country. There’s forgiveness, real mercy,, but like you it is the silence that I too like St. Elisabeth Ann Seton noticed first. What is silence? Why did I not hear it or value it before. Probably because I was singing so much and making so much of my own noise, I missed it. What you experienced though is what I call a Eucharistic Bonfire, and that is why it felt like Heaven. There’s a really good chance that most of the people there were in and are in a state of sanctifying grace, and that grace is radiant and it feels so good that you feel like telling complete strangers that you love them. But they need St. Albanites because they do not understand Agape. They are learning, but you have so much more to teach them. Hi Mrs. Frost, it’s great to post near you. For me it is simply God’s will not mine. I had a very difficult time accepting that maybe God had His own ideas about the set up of a church until I discovered that it was actually His church not mine set up by Jesus, established on Kephas, the rock, and the primacy of Peter is throughout the Gospel of John in particular. John reached the tomb first, but only Peter went in, the others thought He was a prophet, but only Peter could say Jesus was the Messiah. John recognised Jesus on the water, but only Peter walked out. The primacy of Peter is actually rampant throughout the bible, but it is easy to read only what we want to read or to miss things completely. Fortunately Catholics are very patient and reverent when sharing their faith and so they have a lot of online apologetics. Don’t worry, I’m bringing all the Episcopalian treasure I’ve received and sharing it with them. As St. Augustine says, ” Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
    God bless,
    Marian le Grelle(Cline)
    Fortunately I have great parents who won’t faint or be scandalised that I’ve posted.

  7. Emily Weaver says:

    Thanks for sharing! I feel like I got a piece of it through your words.

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