Seeing the Pope (Sorta...)
Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 05:45PM
Diane Bones


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So let me start off by saying that I did NOT see the Pope in Philadelphia this weekend.

Yes, I was a volunteer for the World Meeting of Families on Saturday morning, but I was stationed in a spot where the only Pope you saw was the cardboard rendition that a shady-looking guy on a corner was selling for a few bucks to elated tourists.

Who cares if I had to walk miles up Broad Street from the parking lot at Temple University because someone on the street (mistakenly) told me the subway wasn’t stopping at my volunteer destination? You know those super fit women who can trek for days without grasping their hearts like Fred Sanford? I’m not one of them, so it was quite a hike and I felt like I certainly did my duty for La Papa.   

The second and final day of the Pope’s visit to Philly, my sister Re and I headed down to Philly to see if we could catch just a glimpse of Francis himself. After all, we were with our parents in 1979 when the last pope visited our town, and we like a nice tradition that obligates us once every 25 years or so.

When we arrived downtown on Sunday afternoon, it was full-on madness, the city awash in Vatican yellow, angelic music blasting from speakers overhead, naysayers lambasting the Pope using megaphones (everyone blithely ignored them), people streaming everywhere and nary a car in sight. (Philly officials prepared for the Pope’s visit by ordering everyone with a vehicle to sell it, stash it in a garage until Halloween or leave town with it - I’m surprised they let the Popemobile within the city limits.)

Among all the throngs of the faithful, we were lucky enough to meet up with one of Re’s daughters, Anne Marie, her husband Devon and their baby boys, Kip and Davis. Pope Francis was right – La Familia is what makes the world go round, and holding those two little boys for a half-hour while streams of visitors swirled around us was both incredibly loving and surreal.

After the babies went home for a nap and we couldn't use them to lure the Pope in for a hug, Re and I hunkered down at a spot where we hoped he might do a driveby before his scheduled mass on the Parkway. We were in the first row of a line of folks situated on a curb when a nicely dressed man and woman about our age plopped themselves right in front of us. Yes, we were all for Francis’ message of love, but we weren’t about to let these two obstruct the view that we had cornered for a good half-hour already. When we tried to politely tell them to get lost, they turned on the charm and tried to schmooze us with chit-chat. “Where ya from?” the husband asked. I wanted to say “From 10th and I’m gonna kick your ass if you don't get outta my way, mister” but I refrained, muttered “Philly” and gave him a stony stare to rival Mount Rushmore. Good thing the third Bones Sister wasn't with us for reinforcement or one of those big burly Philly cops keeping the crowd in line might have had a dustup on his hands.

Of course, none of it mattered because Francis didn’t even pass our way, due to the fact that we were in an “unsecured” area, meaning we didn’t wait for four hours to go through a checkpoint. Hey, we’re Catholics, we never said we’re dedicated Catholics…

After the crowd dispersed with the whisper-down-the-lane knowledge that Francis had started saying mass and we had no hope of seeing him up-close-and-personal, it was downright humbling to see crowds of men, women and children praying and silently watching his every move on numerous Jumbotrons. The Pope was kind, loving and forgiving and the people responded in kind. Re and I even saw a priest giving out communion near City Hall and we were lucky enough to partake. Turns out he was distributing pieces of white bread that he said were a “spiritual symbol of Christ.” After I swallowed it, I wondered if I had just eaten poisoned carbohydrates from a homicidal maniac in a brown robe. “Is he really a priest?” I whispered to a woman nearby. “Yes,” she said, “He’s our parish priest, we’re from Illinois.” Whew, that was a relief, because, honestly, I saw more than one “clergyman” in the crowds that day that looked like he bought his robes from the Halloween Shop and had just come from Happy Hour.

By 5 pm, Re and I had walked a mini-marathon around center city and even nabbed some half-priced T-shirts (hey, it was the end of the day, ya gotta at least ask for a discount). We chatted with people on the street, on the sidewalks and on the subway. People had come on foot, on buses and on planes to see the Pontiff and all agreed that it was a heart-warming, soul-firing experience. 

So in answer to the question that everyone asks, no, we didn’t actually see the Pope.

But that's Ok because we definitely felt him and his positive, loving energy.

So thanks for a wonderful weekend, Francis - it was a grand adventure and a fine time was had by all. 


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