This is an abridged version of an article Laura wrote in the April 21, 2008, edition of The Hatchet.
When I first got word that the pope was coming to D.C. as part of the first U.S. pontifical tour in over a decade, I decided that I would see him. I did not realize at the time how scarce tickets to the Mass would be.
I was raised by an observant Irish Catholic family and have been practicing my faith for all of the 18 years and 11 months that I’ve been on this earth. I happily endured eight years in a plaid St. Patrick’s School uniform and I continue to go to Mass every Sunday. My faith is a huge part of my life.
Despite my strong religious upbringing, the idea of the pope had always been just that – an idea. I had never felt any sort of connection to the spiritual head of the Catholic Church, my Holy Father in Rome. Thousands of miles away, across an entire ocean, the pope had always been a distant figurehead to me.
Lo and behold, I received an e-mail on April 3 from campus chaplain Father Giovanoni – I was getting a ticket!
For Catholics, every Mass is miraculous. A Mass celebrated by the pope then, is sublime. The service proved to be an experience beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Standing in the electric energy of some 40,000 people – all so obviously full of joy and emotion – was overwhelming. Goosebumps covered my body and tears, somewhat embarrassingly, sprang to my eyes. As the popemobile appeared, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause and cheers.
With him in my midst, I felt my feelings of detachment dissolve. Even though he was waving to tens of thousands of people from behind bulletproof glass, when he passed the GW community in section 138, I felt personally connected to Pope Benedict.
When I think about the pope today, he is no longer an abstraction. He is now very real to me – an earthly link to my God in heaven.