David Crabtree on Assignment

A Mass for the Masses

Posted April 17, 2008 5:09 p.m. EDT
Updated April 18, 2008 11:40 a.m. EDT

OK, call it coincidence if you want, but I'm not so sure.

In 1993, World Youth Day in Denver saw 10 days of sunshine. In 1999, I spent nine days in Rome as we were producing a documentary on the Vatican. Nine days – never saw a drop of rain.

Three years ago, another six days in The Eternal City covering John Paul II's funeral. Sunshine every day except the last hour of the funeral service.

Now, two days with Benedict XVI in Washington and again, perfect weather.

Whether or not it's a coincidence, or something no one could ever truly explain, it has been another marvelous assignment that, today, included another papal Mass.

This one was more special than the others.

Maybe my own maturity is at work here. Maybe it's the mood of the country regarding the Roman Catholic Church. Maybe it's because it's the first time I've seen Benedict XVI up close since Cardinal Ratzinger was elected.

No matter the reason, this was a Mass for the masses. Close to 50,000 people filled Nationals Park like it was the opening day of the World Series.

They cheered as the Holy Father emerged from, of all things, the dugout!

He did a victory lap in the Pope Mobile and people cheered louder than they did years ago for Cal Ripken just a few miles up the road in Baltimore.

The choirs, the clergy, the liturgy, the Eucharist, the faithful.

Outside, hundreds watched on giant jumbo-trons, as there weren't enough tickets for everyone.

Also outside, protestors. Not just those who disagree with Catholic teaching, but those who shouted hate-filled insults at anyone who disagrees with their view of Biblical teaching.

Msgr. Tim O'Connor has consulted with WRAL-TV on papal issues for almost 10 years. He's been slapped, punched and pinched. Thursday though, I heard more vile thrown at him than I had heard before.

Inside, the pope was serving communion; outside those fundamentalist preachers served hate with equal ease.

The monsignor is my friend. I wanted to shout back. Instead, I watched him. He walked along in silence.

Later he told me, "All I could do was pray for them. I wasn't comfortable, but with Christ in me, I had to pray."

Those words still resonate with me, and I'll take them to New York and keep them close as I watch and hear another round of insults hurled at the Vicar of Christ.

About this Blog:

WRAL anchor David Crabtree reports from around the world.