Pope Benedict XVI is on American soil …”What’s the big deal?”
I’ve heard that question asked by several of my friends and acquaintances, none who are Roman Catholic.
I understand their question. If totally honest, I have to admit that up until 15 years ago, I might have had the same question. Much has changed in my life since then.
In August 1993, I was working for KCNC-TV in Denver, Col. World Youth Day was coming to the Mile High City, and 100,000 young people from around the world were coming to celebrate their Catholicism with each other and with Pope John Paul II.
Denver was buzzing excitement that is normally reserved for the Broncos. What would we experience? Where might the Pope travel? Would we see him? Might we get a glance of the Pope mobile? Would he hike the Rocky Mountains?
As it turned out, he did all that and more. Much more.
It was a summer of violence in Denver. Thirteen drive-by killings. The crime rate was through the roof. But for those eight days in August 1993, the crime rate dropped dramatically. No murders. There was a peace that passed understanding.
“What’s the big deal?”
I’m not saying peace will find its way to Washington D.C. or Manhattan. What I am saying is THIS Pope will probably not make anymore trips to the United States. He turns 81 Wednesday. He’s not the showman of his predecessor. John Paul made us laugh, maybe even shed a tear. Benedict makes us think — all of us.
My youth was spent attending the Southern Baptist church almost every time the doors were opened. After college rebellion, I found the Episcopal church and never left. Four years ago, I was blessed with ordination as a vocational deacon in the Episcopal church.
We have no “holy father,” but we understand apostolic succession. We don’t answer to Rome, not even to Canterbury, but we understand it.
I met John Paul II following a mass in his private chapel. He looked me in the eye…”Americano … journalist … be generous … be generous …”
That was October 1999. Still today, words fail me. That moment is embedded on my emotional and spiritual hard drive.
The big deal? This man leads a flock of billions. Most agree with him, but many of the flock do not. There will be protests, there will be anger, and there will be tears. Some of sorrow and many of great joy. There will be apologies (some say long overdue) for egregious acts of sexual abuse.
There will be all this and more.
It is a big deal.
I am honored to witness another papal event.