It has been a phenomenal, busy, and awe-inspiring week with the visit of Pope Francis to the United States. When he was in D.C. I had two chances to see him, albeit from a distance, when he celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and after he gave his address to Congress—I was standing among the crowds outside who greeted him enthusiastically when the Holy Father came out afterwards to say a few words, on the balcony, to us and give us his blessing.
One of the joys of that encounter, outside Capitol Hill, for me was realizing how many people came—there was a group of young people in their twenties around me, in this regard—who were not even Catholic. There were Jewish, Protestant, secular individuals—and I’m sure other denominations, as well—who came to witness the presence of this Pope, they admire him so much.
It is truly a gift of the Holy Spirit when you are able to win the respect of others by your radiant love, especially those who may not even share your theological or social worldview, yet are so moved that they are willing to wait hours just to have a glimpse of your presence. This is what Francis, through the loving grace of God, has been able to accomplish, becoming a force of the Holy Spirit able to attract and console all sorts of people through the unmatched joy of the Gospel.
I love the fact that after addressing Congress, the Pope did not stay to have lunch on Capitol Hill but traveled to a nearby parish to have lunch with countless of homeless people. I love that today he visited, greeted, and addressed a hundred prisoners in a prison outside Philadelphia bringing a message of hope and mercy against the demonic lie that people cannot change. In honor of Francis, and this great Year of Mercy which he has declared, I have changed the header on my blog to the image of the humble pontiff going to confession, giving us an example of the transformative power of the Sacrament in experiencing the Lord’s infinite mercy and healing grace in our lives.