The Pope is coming! No, not to St. Louis, but to the United States. I imagine that most of you are aware of this, that he will be visiting Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia on September 22-27, but the question is, what does this mean to me? Most of us will not be able to get to any of these cities for his visit, so what should this visit mean to us?
First, how he will interact with us. He may not be visiting St. Louis, and we might not see him, but he is visiting the U.S. He will be meeting with our bishops. He will be meeting with our president. He will be addressing the U.S. Congress. Addressing each of them in a way that is specific to them, and specific to us as citizens of the U.S. But he won’t only be talking to them, he will also be listening to them, seeing and hearing concerns and challenges that face us here that may be different from those in other parts of the world. He will be visiting work by Catholic Charities in D.C., he will be visiting Central Park in New York, he will be visiting a school in Harlem, and he will be visiting a prison in Philadelphia. Pope Francis doesn’t appear to want to stay separated from us by always staying in a motorcade and just waving from a distance, but rather wanting to have real experiences with people in all different situations. Hopefully we will learn from him as he addresses the groups and individuals in all of these different venues, and we also hope that he will learn from us, if not any of us specifically, then at least someone who we share common experiences, needs, desires, challenges with.
Second, how he is representing us. As Catholics the pope is not only the pastor of our universal Church and the Vicar of Christ, but he is also the most identifiable personal representation of our faith to the world. In this trip he will represent us to our country and to the world. Addressing Congress and then later the United Nations I expect that he is going to be challenging them both to live out values and morals that we, as Catholics, believe are critical. But not only do we expect him to express these Catholic beliefs and teachings in his words, but we expect he will represent us in how he acts and treats others. Pope Francis manages to represent our faith in a way that we can not only be proud of but also a way that many find very popular and attractive that presents our faith to even the most skeptic in a very positive light.
So why is the Pope’s visit important to me? Because I believe it will challenge and encourage me, and all of those both Catholic and not, to consider how we are living today, and how we may need to change. To see how we need to grow closer to Christ, and how He wants to grow closer to us.