This time last week I was Philadelphia bound to see and hear Pope Francis speak at Independence Hall and the outdoor Mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway. Here is a summary in text, pictures and video of what I experienced the day of the outdoor Mass.
Disney World Like Long Lines to Get Into Outdoor Mass
I got up “early” and set out at 9:30am to get into the area where the Papal Mass was taking place. Apparently hundreds of people had the same idea. The line swelled to “Disney World” ride proportions, stretching for blocks after a while. The security check in process was to blame as people had to take off jackets, hats and open handbags to let TSA agents go through them. We also had to go through metal detectors.
Here is a replay of my Periscope – a live video streamed through Twitter that gives you an idea of what the line was like and who was there:
T-Shirts and Signs
Laura from the Archdiocese of Harrisburg (featured in my Periscope video) created this sign after going to confession. She asked people to sign it noting their cities.
She was also wearing this t-shirt.
Funny Meeting you Here PBS News Hour
You never know who you’ll meet waiting in line to get in to see the Pope. I work for Georgia Public Broadcasting, a local PBS affiliate. As it happens I ran into Stephen Fee, field correspondent for PBS NewsHour (on my left) and his producer Mori Rothman (right).
Here is what you could and couldn’t bring into the papal Mass area.
Inside the Ben Franklin Pkwy Area – the Multitudes Gather to See Pope Francis
The multitudes had already gathered to see Pope Francis. People already staked their claims on spots close to railings to see his popemobile drive by. Others parked themselves by jumbotrons so that they could watch the before Mass concert/presentation and then the Mass itself.
Here is a video of what the parkway was like from the inside.
A View of the Basilica
The Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul where Pope Francis said Mass was also nearby. The church was closed to tours because of the wave of people so I took photos of the exteriors.
The Pope is Here
Annie, a local from the suburbs of Philly was kind enough to save me a spot near her on a sidewalk close to a railing, a great vantage point to see the popemobile driveby. When Pope Francis finally came, the crowd erupted with cheers and picture taking. I was too short to get a good photo, but my new Philly friends and a tall guy from Lancaster, PA were kind enough to share theirs with me.
What was it like to see him drive by? It was both cool and a blessing! One of my new friends said she got chills. I feel I had a similar experience.
Time for Mass
Once Mass started, everyone rushed to the jumbotrons to watch including me. I joked with Fr. Jeffery that my goal was not to get trampled during the trip. Those haunted me as I found myself being squished between people heading toward and away from the jumbotron. I returned to my original spot eventually.
I wondered how the papal Mass organizers would handled the distribution of communion to people gathered en masse on the sidewalk, square and grass behind barricades. (I attended Pope Benedict’s Mass at Yankee stadium in 2008 and clergy somehow made sure everyone communion was distributed to all sections, even the nosebleed seats.)
I was pleasantly impressed to see an Army of priests coming down the street carrying chalices. They came up in front of each section of barricades and as good Catholics do, we formed orderly lines for people to receive the Body of Christ.
Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord
After the Mass ended, we rushed to the sidewalk railing because we hoped Pope Francis would drive by again. But unfortunately he went straight to the airport to greet more people and leave for Rome.
Once we realized that, many of us gravitated to the Catholic Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul to tie a prayer intention and take a prayer intention away from the Mary Undoer of Knots Grotto at the church. Artist Meg Saligman created the structure and Sister Mary of the Project HOME organization spearheaded it’s formation to raise awareness to help the homeless. It’s tied to Pope Francis’ love of the artwork Mary Undoer of Knots and prayer devotion to it.
The concept: write a prayer intention on a piece of paper, tie it on the structure and then untie someone else’s prayer intention in order to pray for that intention.
What a good way to end a weekend about the family of humanity and remind us to hold each other up by keeping each other in prayer.