"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Papal Mass, Christ in the City

Friday, September 25th, was the Papal Mass and it was quite a day.  I got into Manhattan slightly after noon.  The information packet said to be there around two PM but I had no idea what the traffic would be like.  They were saying that the city would pretty much be locked down.  What I typically do when I go into the Manhattan for something or other is drive over to Brooklyn—I live across the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island—park the car near a subway station, and take the subway the rest of the way in.  Manhattan traffic stinks and parking is impossible unless you want to pay at least $50 for the day.  I did not run into any slowdowns either on the drive into Brooklyn or the subway ride to midtown Manhattan.  So I was early. 

On my walk from the train station to Madison Square Garden, I grabbed a sausage and peppers sandwich from a hot dog stand—I didn’t realize hot dog stands sold sausage and peppers now—and a Snapple and leaned against some building while I wolfed it down.  It was pretty good, but I still felt hungry and came across a pizzeria on a side street and got a slice as well.  The pizza men didn’t even look Italian--all ethnic groups can make pizza now.  Mmm.  I wolfed that down too.  I have to say the food in Manhattan, even off the street and some side street, no-name pizzeria that’s not run by Italians is delicious. 

When I got to the Garden (New Yorkers refer to Madison Square Garden as “The Garden”) there were tons of people around, including to my surprise some Protestant evangelizers handing out proselytizing pamphlets, which I found kind of tacky.  I’m mean really, what are they thinking?  If one is devout enough to go to a Papal Mass, do you think you’re going to convert because of some street handout? 

I was still early at around 12:30-ish but I figured I would go see where I needed to enter and if I could enter I figured I might as well sit and read rather than just walk around.  Cops told me I could not enter and that I needed to go to the back of the line, a line that was building south along the avenue.  So I looked to my left and—oh—there was a line.  At the end of the block I started to get on queue when the last person said the line continued on the next block.  What?  OK.  I walked to the back of the next block, and then the next, and then the next.  I went about eight blocks down before I finally reached the end.  And within short order it kept building behind me.  I don’t know how far behind me it went but ten city blocks in New York is roughly a half mile, and I think it went beyond that.

And then we waited.  While waiting I bought a Papal flag off a street vendor, a chubby lady with a Spanish accent and spoke in broken English.  My son would love it.  Street vendors kept coming by with stuff.  I bought from a tall Caribbean street vendor in dreadlocks a rosary made of black wooden beads with an image of St. Benedict on the cross.  I bought it for my mother, who has asked for just such a rosary.  I thought the image of St. Benedict was that of Padre Pio—my mother’s favorite saint—but I realized after I had bought it I was wrong.

I did read a little while standing but then I struck up a conversation with the family standing in front of me.  It was a family of four—father, mother, daughter in her teens, and a son maybe around twelve.  The son was in a motorized wheelchair and from what I could tell was a quadriplegic.  His hair was blond and he had glasses and a studious face.  I was struck by the way his family took care of him, fixed his hair that the breeze blew out of place, adjusted his seating position, took off a jacket when it got warm.  His father even spoke sternly to him when the son insisted on something or other, just like any father might with any son.  They were from out of the City, a good hour and a half north in a rural area.  The father said they had to get a ride down since the special van he had that accommodates the son’s wheelchair was taller than standard vans, and, the other times he drove in, it couldn’t fit in the parking garages and he didn’t think he could find street parking.  It must have cost them a pretty penny to get a specialized ride down and I assume a ride home.  The mother said over the years her son had received individual blessings from their priests, their monsignor, their bishop, and now the Pope.  “Who would have thought?” she said.  “We thought the Bishop would have been the last, but then the Pope came into town.”  Their church got them tickets just so their son could attend.   The father did tell me they used to come down to New York City regularly to bring his son to a particular hospital for some sort of treatments. 

My throat just swelled with emotion for the boy.  Internally I kept praying to God to bless that poor kid.  God, may he walk some day, and God, if we can’t have that miracle, may he have a full and happy life.  Bless him Lord.  I never did ask how the son became a quadriplegic.  I assume he wasn’t born that way.  When the line started to move up we kind of got split up in the walk up to the Garden.  It became a bit of a disorganized scramble and people jumped ahead and others got angry, and I saw the father protecting his son and making sure his wheelchair wasn’t pushed around by the crowd.  Even a set of nuns obliviously cut the line.  Some people shrugged, some people were miffed.  Later, inside, just before the Mass started I came across the father and daughter seated.  I asked about the son and he said he was up at a balcony for wheelchairs with his mother.

You may ask why I’m giving all this preliminary detail but I’ll come to that later.

So finally I made it in and seated.  Oh that felt good.  That was about four PM, so from the time I got on queue to being seated was three and a half hours.  So much for being early.  I could have showed up late and gotten in just the same.  My back was hurting, and so were my feet.  Was I upset as some in the crowd were?  No.  I have always wanted to go on some sort of pilgrimage, and if I couldn’t take this burden then what kind of a lousy pilgrim would I be?  I thought for sure I would have missed the great musical entertainment that was advertised.  But no, it hadn’t started yet. 

My seat was decent, a bit distant but facing the stage—which in this case was the altar.  I was seated behind the ground level section of the Garden, in the first section of the sloping stands.  It must have been fifty yards or so, but I had a direct view and a large screen directly in front of me.

Before the events started I did go outside the auditorium and look for souvenirs.  Now I wanted something for myself.  I collect little pins that you can put on a lapel or fishing hat, and unfortunately all the Papal pins were sold out.  “All gone within an hour,” one vendor said.  I smirked in disappointment.  They did have baseball caps and several types of official rosaries, varying in price.  I liked the rosaries.  The cheapest one was $45 and it was beautiful and strong, so I took it.  I’ll have to take a picture of it for another post.

The musical entertainment was exactly those advertised, and they each performed one song: James D Train Williams, Gloria Estefan, Kelli O’Hara, Norman Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, and Harry Connick Jr.  They were all brilliant, but I have to say that Kelli O’Hara’s rendition of The Lord’s Prayer was incredible.  She was in tears at the end, and so was I.  I had never heard of her but what a voice and how she communicated with it.  If she ever records The Lord’s Prayer, buy it; it will be worth it.

The Pope finally made a startling entrance twenty-some minutes early than the 6:30 start.  He circled the ground level section in what looked like some sort of cart.  Everyone was cheering and applauding.  I could see him waving, and when I caught sight of his face he had that famous smile.  Then he circled back out and came in behind the Entrance Procession.  When he led us in the sign of the cross, the emotion hit me and I started to choke up.  You could feel the electricity in the air.

The Mass then settled down into the liturgy.  Pope Francis did the Preparatory Rites and the Collect in his broken English.  The alternate readings were read in Spanish and then English, with the Gospel reading in English, Matthew 5:38-48, the passage on loving your enemies.  The Holy Father than gave his homily, and he read the prepared text in Spanish, but there were English subtitles on the screen.  I couldn’t catch the entire gist of his homily, but I caught images and phrases.  “Light, Christ, smog, streets.”  “Living in the city.”  “The people walk and breathe.”  “A light walking in the streets.”  “Encounter Jesus.”

He was giving a homily on city life and how Christ is there amongst us in the city.  I have lived in this city since three years old, which means I’ve lived here for fifty years.  City life is all I really know.  I certainly have had a love-hate relationship with this city.  I couldn’t grasp the Holy Father’s exact message but I intuitively understood it.  Life in the city is different.  We walk by people.  We fail to see the ones who are in need.  We walk right by them or are scared of them. 

And so this is why I gave such a long introduction to this post.  I tried to capture the sights and moments of city life, the boy in the wheelchair, the family who cautiously cares for him, the rush of people jostling to get ahead in the queue, the people we bump into, the many faces we don’t even register as they stand right beside you, the frustration and anger you feel from people cutting ahead after you waited so long.  Afterwards I went and found the entire text of the homily.  You can read it here.  Here is what I think is the key passage:

But big cities also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens. In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath “the rapid pace of change”, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no “right” to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts.

Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope. A hope which liberates us from the forces pushing us to isolation and lack of concern for the lives of others, for the life of our city. A hope which frees us from empty “connections”, from abstract analyses, or sensationalist routines. A hope which is unafraid of involvement, which acts as a leaven wherever we happen to live and work. A hope which makes us see, even in the midst of smog, the presence of God as he continues to walk the streets of our city. Because God is in the city.

What is it like, this light travelling through our streets? How do we encounter God, who lives with us amid the smog of our cities? How do we encounter Jesus, alive and at work in the daily life of our multicultural cities?

And then he implored us to go out and embrace the city and all its inhabitants.

Prince of Peace. Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side. He frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness, and brings us to the school of encounter. He removes us from the fray of competition and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters.

God is living in our cities. The Church is living in our cities. God and the Church living in our cities want to be like yeast in the dough, to relate to everyone, to stand at everyone’s side, proclaiming the marvels of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. And we, as Christians, are witnesses to this.

The media is obsessed with the Holy Father’s political issues, and I wish the Pope wouldn’t thrust himself so directly into politics.  But that’s him, for better or worse.  What gets obscured by his political message is that such a fine pastoral message as this gets lost.  The metaphors, the similes, the imagery, this was a brilliant homily, one of the best I’ve ever heard. I now recall that Pope Francis, when he was still Cardinal Bergoglio, was from Buenos Aries, the large city of Argentina.  I remember a picture of him riding in anonymity on the subway.  He knows the city.  He’s from the city.  His homily made me love New York City in a way I have never loved it before. 

I wondered how they would do communion for some 20,000 people.  If you look behind the altar you’ll see what must be over a hundred men in white robes.  Those are all priests and deacons.  The communion lines all proceeded out the auditorium and then circled back, so that it went remarkably smooth.  But the height of the Mass must have been when just before Dismissal Cardinal Dolan gave a remarkable tribute to Papa Francesco.  You can see the entire Mass on this video, but go to the 1:38:00 to see the tribute and the wonderful standing ovation.  It was a great moment.

And so it was over.  I again stopped at that pizzeria for another couple of slices before I got back on the subway.  Parishioners were on the streets and I struck up a couple of conversations.  We were all New Yorkers, and Christ was in the streets.  We all thought the experience was extraordinary.  

Pictures to follow on another post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Music Tuesday: A Tribute to Enya

I have to thank Jan, one of my frequent readers, for turning me on to Enya.  I really was clueless to Enya’s music.  It all started with one of Jan’s blogs where she complained about people making fun of her daughter because her daughters pronounces the Enya as “Auy-na” and they got ridiculed at school for it.  Her daughters picked up from her mother who has pronounced it so since she was in school.

I told her I pronounced it “N-ya” but I had no idea what the proper pronunciation was.  I mentioned how in college I had a friend who liked Enya and suggested I listen but it wasn’t my cup of tea at the time.  I was into rock and Enya was far afield from that.  I told Jan then later in life when I got to appreciate religious music I was under the assumption Enya was New Age, and so I as a Catholic felt that New Age was some sort of dumbed down religion, for those people who claim they’re spiritual but not religious.  Jan assured me that she didn’t think Enya was New Age, and then she posted a song, Orinoco Flow (Sail Away), for me to sample.

Wow, was that pretty and evocative.  I decided I had to give Enya a chance, so I bought her greatest hits, The Very Best of EnyaThe Amazon exclusive digital version has a couple extra songs, so get that one if you’re going to buy it.

So I listened to the music and went on the internet to learn what I can about Enya.  I really enjoyed listening to this and am grateful to Jan for pointing it out for me.  I do have some good news and bad news for Jan, though.  The good news is that Enya is indeed pronounced “Ahn-ya” as it is shown here, though I have to say that I found a number of interviews where the interviewer called her "N-ya" and she didn't correct them.  The bad news is that according to Wikipedia, Enya has four times won the Grammy Award for the best New Age Album of the year.  So yes, Enya’s music is New Age.  However, in listening to Enya’s music I’ve come to realize that New Age music does not necessarily promote New Age religion.  The can be quite separate.  Though Enya’s songs do sometimes touch on New Age religious motifs (nature, cosmic, mystical) I have not found anything that would suggest a New Age theology.  In fact she is a fairly devout Catholic (still occasionally singing at the parish of her youth) and has some decidedly Catholic songs, which I’ll get to.

I also asked Jan her favorite Enya songs and she put a post on that.  I’ll just list them, but you can go read about why.

  1. Caribbean Blue
  2. Ebudea
  3. Amarantine
  4. Anywhere Is
  5. It’s in the Rain
I have not heard “Ebudea” and “It’s in the Rain.”  They were not included in the album I bought but the other three were and I agree they are wonderful pieces.  Look them up on youtube for a listen.  I’m going to pick four different songs, and so provide my five of my favorites not including Orinoco Flow

The first song that intrigued me was Trains and Winter Rains and I think this provides a good example of her style.

And what is that style?  It doesn’t strike me that she writes songs to make statements, but creates a mood, a feeling, an evocative sense.  In Trains and Winter Rains, she captures a journey home.  She seems to like to use rain and water in her songs.  Musically Wikipedia summarizes her style in this way:

As a musical group Enya represents a partnership between three people: Enya herself, who composes and performs the music; Nicky Ryan, who produces the albums; and Roma Ryan, who writes the lyrics in various languages, except Irish, in which Enya will render the lyrics herself. Enya performs all instruments and vocals in her pieces unless specified. Although there are certain pieces where acoustic instruments are featured, almost all sounds of her pieces are created by a synthesiser. Her signature sound uses simple arrangements with extensive multi-tracking vocals. The vocals are performed individually and are then layered together to form a virtual choir. According to Enya, Angeles, the fifth track on her album Shepherd Moons has about 500 layered vocal tracks.

I have to say that the use of synthesizers and multi-track layering is not well received by the musical purists.  However, Enya uses these to fully express herself to what she wants convey.  It is not a covering up due to a lack of virtuosity but an attempt to construct a sound that creates meaning.  I think her work is aesthetically sound.

I should also point out the international flavor of her work, and not surprising, her international appeal.  She’s extremely popular in countries that do not use English as a first language, and in some cases more so than native English speaking countries.  Just look at how her songs fared on the national charts of various countries.  She sings in several languages.  Most of her non-English songs are in Gaelic which Wikipedia identifies as the Irish language.  There are also songs in Latin and made up languages such as the Elvin language of Lord of the Rings.  In Sumiregusa (Wild Violet) she sings in Japanese.

Again the crux of the song is an evocative feeling.  Here is the first verse, translated.  (Use the azlyrics site for Enya because they provide translations alongside the non English lyrics.)

The poignancy of things
A purple flower
The blossoms of spring
And the light snow of winter
How they fall

It’s not exactly saying anything except the images are beautifully rendered by the music.  In classical music, such evocative rendering is called program music.  

Enya does religious music extraordinarily well.  I wish she would do an entire album of Christian songs because she really captures the heart of Christian feeling, and she does it in an original way.  Her version of O Come Immanuel is top notch as is her Gailic version of Silent Night, titled Oíche Chiúin (Chorale).  But I really loved this song, Pax Deorum, sung in Latin.

What an ominous sound she creates at the beginning which builds in intensity but then suddenly at mid way the tension breaks into a peaceful harmony.  The translated lyrics are quite simple.  They are repeated over and over in a sort of muttering prayer.

Father in Heaven, God bless us..
Father in Heaven, God bless me

Believe that each day
which breaks is your last.
Believe that each day
which breaks is your last.

Isn’t that powerful?

Enya is not all strange sounding music.  She is quite capable of constructing a pop lyric.  Her songs such as My! My! Time Flies! and Wild Child are just such songs.  Here’s Wild Child.

Finally Only Time has to be one of the most beautiful songs ever.  This might be my favorite of her songs.

I thank Jan for introducing me to Enya.  I’m really captivated by her music.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Personal Note: Papal Mass Update

A week and a half ago I mentioned I had tickets to the Papal Mass on September 25th at Madison Square Garden when Pope Francis makes a visit to New York.  I also mentioned that for security reasons I had to be at the event before 2:30 PM, even though the Mass wouldn’t start before 6:30 that evening.  We were not told what we could do inside while we waited, but now that have released a list of entertainers that will perform during that long down time.  From the NY Times:

To persuade the thousands of Roman Catholics who will attend Pope Francis’ Mass at Madison Square Garden next week to arrive early, the Archdiocese of New York announced on Monday that the Mass would be preceded by a two-hour show with prayer and devotional music performed by stars including Harry Connick Jr., Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Hudson.


The show announced on Monday, called “A Journey in Faith,” will begin at 3 p.m. Among the other performers will be Kelli O’Hara, Martin Sheen, James (D Train) Williams and Norm Lewis. The Broadway Inspirational Voices, a Grammy-nominated gospel choir, and the St. Charles Borromeo Choir will also sing. The performance will include the recitation of the rosary and the sacrament of reconciliation. 

Whoa!!!!!  Who would have thought!  God is so good! 

I guess those are all Catholic entertainers.  I know Gloria Estafan, Harry Connick Jr., and Martin Sheen are.  I’ve never heard of Kelli O’Hara, James (D train) Williams, and Norm Lewis.  Obviously the St. Charles Borromeo Choir is Catholic.  Anyone heard of those people I don’t recognize? 

Now can you imagine some people have been so slimy as to do this: 

Last week, the city distributed 80,000 tickets to the procession through a lottery. (Some of those tickets have since turned up on eBay and Craigslist, where they are listed for hundreds of dollars. The scalping has been condemned by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, and by city and state officials.) 

There’s just no accounting for people’s morals.  Anyway I feel so blessed to be able to attend.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Art: The Sistine Madonna by Raphael

The August 2015 issue of Magnificat magazine featured this painting as its monthly art essay and I was really taken in.  This wonderful painting was painted for the Benedictine Monastery of San Sisto, and not the Sistine Chapel as its name might suggest.  It is sometimes referred to as the Madonna Standing on Clouds with Saints Sixtus and Barbara, and personally I think that’s a better name. 

There is so much to point out in this painting.  The structure is circular the Madonna and Child at the top of the circle, Pope Saint Sixtus IV looking upward, Saint Barbara looking downward, and the two icon angels looking back up to complete the circle.  The color scheme is interesting.  The yellows, greens, and browns contrast nicely with the Blessed Virgin’s blue gives the Holy Mother a position of prominence. 

There is an interesting contrast of the neat and tidy Saint Barbara with the disheveled Saint Sixtus.  The Blessed Virgin also seems to be mostly neat, except for her windblown garments, which connects her with the other female figure.  The hair on the Christ child and on the two angels are tousled and disarrayed, connecting them with the male figure.  What that means, I’m not sure.

The choice of the supporting figures is also interesting.  We know why Pope Saint Sixtus IV was chosen.  The painting was commissioned by his nephew and wanted to honor his uncle.  Sixtus is characterized as frail and human, which further connects him to the human child.  But why Saint Barbara?  I’m not sure.  We know her to be both a virgin and martyr.  Her elegance connects her with the Virgin, but her stateliness seems to surpass that of the Virgin.  The cute angels, fleshy and human-like, at the bottom are also connected with the incarnate Christ child, but their whimsical expressions seem to miss the significance and the gravity of the moment.

The drama is also interesting.  The Virgin and child seem to come from behind a green veil (suggesting the earth, perhaps) and walk down as if from heaven.  Sixtus is pointing out of the canvas to the viewer, pointing the Christ child to the beholder of the painting.  The infant Jesus clearly has an expression of being vexed.  The Magnificat essay, by a Fr. Michael Morris, O.P., professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at Berkley, CA, explains the finger point and the Holy Child’s expression with this:

Recent scholarship has discovered that inside the basilica the painting was designed to hang opposite a scene of the crucifixion.  Thus the look of fear that envelops the infant Jesus reveals a natural human response to the sight of pain and death.

I wonder if that is correct.  Would Raphael paint a scene considering that another painting sitting opposite would explain the significance of his painting?  What if one of the paintings were to be relocated, as has his Sistine Madonna was relocated to Dresden, Germany in the 18th century?  Or what if someone decided to rearrange the chapel?  The significance of the pointing hand would be lost, and Raphael certainly would have considered that possibility.  Here’s what I think.  The earthly veil has been opened and we have made our way up toward heaven to face our eternal fate.  Suddenly you come upon the Virgin and child who have come to meet you, and your impulse is to join both Sixtus and Barbara in kneeling before the Lord.  I think Sixtus is pointing to us the observer, and Christ looks on in judgement. 

What do you think?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Literature in the News: D. H. Lawrence Statue in Nottinghamshire

This is exciting news for me.  I love D. H.Lawrence’s writing.  I did my Master’s Thesis on his late fiction.  I haven’t read and written much on Lawrence on my blog, mainly because when one does a large post graduate thesis on an author, one has to read his works and read about him so extensively that one is so saturated that when it’s all over one needs to have distance.  It’s a like a friend that has over stayed his visit, and so one doesn’t want to see or hear from him for a while.  I think I spent nearly two entire years saturated with Lawrence.  I do plan to read his novella, The Virgin and the Gypsy, as I stated in my plans for 2015, and I’ll probably start it next month.

There is just so much of Lawrence.  He died at forty-four years old, which is so young.  But he wrote eleven novels, and some of them have more than one version.  He wrote three volumes of short stories, a collection of poetry that amounts to a thousand pages, a couple of volumes of essays, a few travel books, a history, several novellas, and some books on psychology.  It’s incredible to think how much he was able to write in so little time. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t particularly endorse all his ideas or even think some of it is profound.  His ideas on human psychology can be rather silly, and his antagonism toward feminism (he blamed feminists for World War 1) is excessive beyond reason.  But some of it is profound, especially the male-female relationship in their religious context.  When Lawrence is profound he captures sexuality as a divine endeavor, a meeting with the transcendent.  His religion is certainly not your traditional Christianity, and later in his career was not Christianity at all.  Still his great works are well worth reading.  The best of his poetry is among the best in the 20th century, and I can’t think of a better British short story writer.  His great novels are Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  If you’re starting out with Lawrence, take either the first of the four or the last.  The two middle works are difficult.  What really enthralls me about Lawrence is not his ideas, but the beautiful prose writing.  I consider him among the best prose writers of the English language.

The BBC has just put out a version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and here is the trailer.  It’s only out in Britain at the moment, but hopefully coming to the States shortly. 

From the discussions on the D. H. Lawrence forum I am a member, the consensus of those who have seen the series is that it doesn’t do the novel justice.  Judging from the trailer it seems that they over did the sexuality.  There is more to Lawrence than just the sex.

What really inspired this post was that Nottinghamshire, the county of Lawrence’s native city of Eastwood, is planning to put up a statue to the writer.  From the Nottingham Post:  

Plans are underway to build a statue for Nottinghamshire son and acclaimed writer DH Lawrence in his hometown of Eastwood.

Members of the author's appreciation society, staff at the Lawrence Heritage Centre, University of Nottingham staff and Eastwood MP Gloria De Piero came together to flesh out early plans on Thursday afternoon.

Lawrence sought considerable inspiration from Eastwood and the surrounding countryside which is echoed in his work including his semi-autobiographical novel Sons and Lovers.

It is hoped a permanent statue will cement the town's relationship with the author as it continues to capitalise on his reputation and popularity.

I’m wondering what this statue will look like.  Will it reflect the clean shaven Lawrence of his youth and his time in Nottinghamshire or the elder Lawrence with his iconic beard, as in this photo?

I just hope it’s a good likeness and not some contrived modernist statue.  Lawrence would have hated that.  The sculptor will need to somehow capture a Lawrentian naturalism.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Personal Note: Tickets to the Papal Mass

Well yesterday turned out to be lucky.  As many of you know, the Pope Francis will becoming to the United States and will be stopping in New York City.  Actually he will be going to three cities, Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia.  The climax of the trip is supposed to be the Sunday mass in Philadelphia, so the New York City diocese was instructed to not plan a huge Mass in Central Park such as Pope Saint John Paul II did in 1995.  The numbers of people New York City can generate (we have a population of over 9 million, plus some twenty-something million in the suburbs) would overshadow anything Philadelphia could put together, and the Holy See wanted Philadelphia to be the focus of attention.  Still the Holy Father recently added a walk through Central park to the agenda where he will meet New Yorkers of all types.  That should be interesting and I hope we New Yorkers will be on our best behavior. 

However, in lieu of a Mass in Central Park which could generate a turnout of millions, there will be a Mass in Madison Square Garden which I think can hold about 20,000 or so, depending on the affair.  Many years ago (1982 I think) I saw the Rolling Stones perform there, and then in the early 2000’s I saw Andrea Bocelli perform there.  I was also taken to some tractor, big wheels crush little cars show there once by my uncle, but I don’t remember when.  My friends go there all the time to watch the NY Rangers hockey team play there, but, not being a hockey fan, I’ve never gone. It holds all sorts of events.

So yesterday my Parish, St. Rita, was given 24 tickets for people to attend.  Our pastor, Fr. Eugene, made it clear it will not be an easy day.  You will have to show up by public transportation, must arrive there at 2:30 PM, and pass through a metal detector.  The Mass will start at 6:30, so you will have to wait four hours before the event actually begins.  I also assume this will be longer than your typical hour Mass, so one could expect it to end at about 8 PM at the earliest, and for security reasons so that the Pope and all the dignitaries can make a safe and easy exit, one will have to wait a good half hour to forty-five minutes before mass exit can start.  Now given all that, our pastor said it might be more worthwhile to watch it on television.  Still if anyone wants a ticket and we have more than 24 parishioners who want to attend, there will be a raffle that evening.

Given all that, would you want to go?  I’m wondering if I’m crazy but I did  want to go.

After thinking about it all day I decided I would like to go.  As it turned out, that Friday, the 25th I will have a scheduled day off, and so I would be free to go.  Plus I figured I could get some reading done while I had to wait doing nothing.  So I showed up as one desiring a ticket.

As it turned out 34 parishioners showed up, so there was a raffle.  Names were placed in a basket, we prayed over the names, and then one by one there were picked out.

Drum roll please….as it turned out I was selected somewhere around thirteen or fourteen!  Yay, I will be going to the Papal Mass at Madison Square Garden.  Of course pictures to follow!  Assuming I’m allowed to bring in a camera.  I don't see why not.