As an admirer of Pope Francis from the moment of his introduction and greeting from the balcony at Saint Peter’s on March 13, 2013, I was thrilled to hear that I could have a ticket to the Mass at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The long wait on lines running ten blocks south and stretching from 7th to 8th Avenues and then back north seemed endless and at the same time it was a small price to pay to assure as best we all could that our Pope Francis would be safe in our city. Our seats were about 150 feet from the altar. It was hard to believe that the Pope was present with us in this arena turned cathedral to hold over 30,000 of us.
The First Reading at Mass was from Isaiah 9: 1-3. 5-6
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone…. For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful from David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this!
The memory that will stay with me is that of Pope Francis’ words in the homily when he spoke about the city and all the energy and opportunity that the city offers. He also said that the cities are where those with less can be overlooked, ignored and forgotten. Taking a thought from the reading of Isaiah, Pope Francis reminded us that our God is with us. He called us to be light for others, to see the light in others through the smog that is also part of the city. Calling us to deepen our faith, Pope Francis asked us to consider how we listen to the counsel of the “Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace,” our God, who walks in our city, who accompanies us in our city, who lives in each of our sisters and brothers. I came away renewed and grateful again for the great and amazing gift of life we have for a little while until we pass the torch of energy, light and faith to the next generation.
With a call to quiet, we had time to listen to God’s message from Pope Francis’ words and in our own hearts. I am forever grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Sister Karen Helfenstein
September 25, 2015