I offer a few brief thoughts following the departure of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, or Francis as he signed the mural in Philadelphia on Saturday evening from the United States. From the moment he arrived at Andrews Joint Forces Base on Tuesday to his departure Sunday evening from Philadelphia on September 27th, he received much from the people he spoke with, the people who greeted him, the people he touched and to whom he showed his great love and care. He is the shepherd of the flock, the Bishop of Rome who brings a pastor’s heart to what he does, what he says, and how he responds to others.
With the wonders of our technical age, all of his speeches and homilies from his visit to the United States are available through the USCCB website with links to the Vatican website. It is so easy to go back and read each talk, recall each homily and reflect on what he said to the people of our country. He came to us as the “son of immigrants” to a country of immigrants, built on the hard work of previous generations of people from Ireland, Germany, France, all the countries of Europe and Asia, Africa and he Americas, all the continents and islands of the world. He did not chastise us, or condemn our economy, or berate us for past failures. Instead he came as a brother offering words to challenge us to continue to excel, continue to overcome those challenges that keep us from being the democracy we would like to be; to be the beacon of hope to countless peoples throughout the world; to be a place of freedom where people can freely express their religious beliefs and work together towards a common goal. As I said, last Sunday, one take away thought.
When asked why he came to the United States, he said, “So, that I can enter into conversations with people.” Listening to their stories, listening to their struggles, they are human beings, who deserve respect, deserve an opportunity, deserve a chance to better themselves and better the society in which they, we, live. We are no longer strangers, aliens, or foreigners, we are American Catholics who have a mission.
I hope that he inspired us to do just that, after all is said and done, all of his visitations, speeches, homilies, prayers and Masses, he turns over to us the pastoral task of living our faith in the spirit, in the “Joy of the Gospel.” It is never easy, but necessary and essential if we expect a better world, a better place to live, now and in the years to come.
Let us pray for Francis as he prays for us.
Father Larry Hendel