Not much to say (yeah, right, Peg.) It's perfect weather; truly it could not be better. We're finally, fully into spring; the weather is gorgeous; it's my birthday and the Pope's as well; and he is in DC. In three hours, he'll be here at the Shrine. By then, of course, I'll be a lobster – but hey, I'll stand out from the crowd. Maybe I'll catch his attention – or the attention of the first-aid volunteers in the tent across Harewood. Who can say? We've hardly been here in line fifteen minutes, and the "obligatory ambulance" has already come by (just try going into DC without hearing at least one ambulance. If you don't, I'll buy you dinner). I came down with the Missionaries of Charity – those in DC, Baltimore, Norristown PA, and probably places further away. Getting into the vans at the convent near CUA, they were like a flock of over-excited chickens – scurrying from one car to the other for passports and tickets; changing van drivers; or just because. Once finally gathered into the vans, they settled down to excited clucking, then to prayer as we drove over.
Juli and her friend Amy just showed up, so we're sitting over under the trees lining Harewood. Waiting. Chatting. Playing 'Name That Order' – we're not doing too well so far, unless we cheat and ask the sister or priest in question. The Latino order that nearly swept us into their conga line at the March for Life are down across Michigan: priests, nuns, and mariachi(?) band. Thus far, they're very fond of 'Ole, ole, ole'. WYD2002 bags live! - the man behind a clutch of mystery nuns has one. (They're Dominican by the scapular, but the tri-knot cord is Franciscan, isn't it? --- They turned out to be Benedictine.)
I dunno. For me – it would be great to see the Pope – the closer up, the better. --- And, after an extended break, we will be close - right at the railing; with a polite homeschooling family of 13 behind me rather than crazed Mexican fans shoving desperately. (Praise God!) Whether close or not, though – that's not the point. We're here to welcome the Pope, to show him honor; not just to see him. Leaving it at that level, it's merely selfish, making him a tourist attraction. He is the Vicar of Christ – that commands respect. That commands our standing, in the heat, for hours, to welcome him whether we see him or not. Whether he speaks or not. What is important is being here. When Christ spoke to the multitudes, how many of those 5,000 could hear a word He said? How many could even see Him? And yet they were fed. It's no different here. By honoring the Pope, we honor Christ – and the more we honor Him, by His own promise the more He will bless us.
“The one who has hope lives differently.” “This new goodness of God is no sugarplum.” Benedict can pack so much into a simple, even homey, phrase – despite what I just said above, I do regret that I will not hear him speak in person. There'll be videos and broadcasts and posted texts and I'll see all of those – but not in person. That first quote, on hope – I skipped over it when I read Spe Salvi, but seeing it by itself, I keep going back to it in my mind. When did I last act as if I had hope, true Christian hope that is also utter trust in God? When did I last show it for others, or give an account as Peter commanded us to do?
As to an account of what is going on in the here and now – at 3:50, the bishops arrived by the bus-limo load, under heavy police escort (Southeast must be empty?). And the cheers arose – although mine were tempered. I will never forget the look on a friend's face after she found out about her parish priest (in Boston diocese). And I've witnessed the power of such abuse, though not by a priest, to twist and destroy and perpetuate itself. I cheered the office, not necessarily the men holding it. One single cardinal was in evidence; he strolled by the fence, sans limo, from out of nowhere.
At 4:00, the Protestant tulips were spotted invading the barricade. Understand, dear reader, that all of the Basilica flower beds are in yellow and white. Except this one, right on the Holy Father's route – orange tulips. I suspect Dutch conspiracy with the Irish – sneaky Protestants!
Various signs: 'Tu Es Petrus'; 'Zum Geburtstag Viel Gluck' (Good luck on [your] birthday); lotsa Vatican flags; 'Focolare Welcomes the Pope'. Only one newscrew so far, and the cameraman was wearing a 'Benedict 16' sports jersey – EWTN? CUA-TV? Apparently there was one protestor. A man. Driving a van with a sign on it asking Benedict when “we” were going to ordain women. My question is – who is “we”? If you, good sir, have any role in ordaining anybody – by all means, go ahead. Don't wait for “us” - because “you” will be waiting a long, long time.
Police were checking trash cans earlier – I think I heard one of them muttering, “That's the most suspicious thing I've ever seen.”
And – we wait. Juli and I have stuck with the Missionaries thus far – but being out here with them, not working alongside them in their hospice, I'm feeling the division/difference between us more. We're with them – but not with them. It's as is to be expected, much more crowded now, but we're still in the second row, with only short (but fiesty!) Indian nuns between us and Il Papa. The homeschooling family behind me was practicing 'Frohe Geburtstag' (Happy Birthday; written out on the children's signs) for a while. Cutecute.