His white garments said it all. He was so pure…he was so gentle…he was so humble. As he came down the long aisle and waved at every person there, I could feel the presence of God through this man. Pope Francis was the man of this hour and every hour after. As he walked down the aisle, my eyes welled up and my heart filled with joy and love.
This moment of bliss lasted three, maybe four minutes before I was snapped back to reality.
As he made his way closer to where I was standing, people started to get incredibly pushy and impatient. I never thought that in such a holy place, there would be so much chaos. Children were screaming and parents were holding up their babies the same way Rafiki does with Simba – only this only aggravated the children, so then there was even more screaming.
I remember a little girl came up to me and said, “I’m littler than you, so I’m going to go in front of you.” As she punched me in the lower stomach, she slipped past me and I couldn’t believe it.
I quickly got over that incident and tried to focus on the man of the hour. As he walked down the aisle, I felt this overwhelming feeling of pride, joy, and astonishment as Pope Francis looked right at me. While I did not get to shake his hand, I still thought, I am truly in the presence of God. No amount of chaos could take this moment away from me.
Evidently, some people will do anything they can to get a brush with a VIP. The room quickly became a 500+ people paparazzi ambush for what Catholics see as the most holy man alive.
As a Catholic, I have always had this dream of seeing the Pope in the flesh. When Pope Francis was elected, I thought to myself, that’s the Pope I need to see in person. I still can’t exactly wrap my mind around the thought of being a few feet from Francis – the man who washed the feet of prisoners, refused the red shoes, welcomes everyone with an open heart. It was such a beautiful experience, seeing the man I have looked up to for five years…the man I follow when I’m unsure of my actions, the man who has been my lock screen on my phone for two years for daily inspiration…the man who is bringing Jesus’ teachings to life.
Something that still shocks me is that so many people acted like they were at a rock concert, about to see Aerosmith for the first time. They acted like a superbowl MVP was in the room. Never in my life would I have expected this to be such an irreverent experience.
While those surrounding Pope Francis took me by surprise, I, along with my fellow MMU students, thought it to be a remarkable experience.
“The Catholic messages…it wasn’t resonating because I was getting too aggravated by the people around me. I asked practicing Catholics, ‘What did you think?’ and they said they were severely disappointed in the behaviors of others. I got a new perspective on what religion is…he looked like a grandfather to me. I expected him to have power, but he’s more human than I thought he would be.” Danielle Burdick, senior, Broadfield Social Studies Education
“I wasn’t really too sure what to expect going into it. I thought it was going to be very calm. I remember when we were walking to get into line, people were already running.
People were pushing and shoving. I would compare [the crowd] to a concert. It was a very nervous energy. It was an honor to see him in person, but in the setting that we did see him, it took away from the experience.” Sarah Billeb, senior, Psychology
“I thought it was going to be more sacred. I thought it was going to be a more religious event, and it was not that at all. I thought people came to see him as a celebrity rather than a religious person.” Melanie Coffey, sophomore, Occupational Therapy
While it was nothing like I expected, I still take great pride in the fact that I stood a few feet away from Pope Francis. Though I’d hoped the crowd would have been more respectful in a holy place, for now, I am proud that I can say that I was within arms reach of Pope Francis.
Although I never got to shake his hand, at one point, Pope Francis looked right at me, gave me a little wave, and kept walking. The split second his eyes met mine was the single most inspiring and heartwarming moment of my life. Even though he had no idea who I was, he acknowledged my presence with humility and grace, and the shoving and screaming faded away when I locked eyes with my role model, Pope Francis.
Gif courtesy of: https://giphy.com/explore/the-lion-king