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Pilgrims thrilled to get up close to Pope Francis

ROME—On day five of his pilgrimage to Rome, Patrick Lana had his “O-M-M” moment.  It was at Pope Francis’ April 30 general audience. As he arrived for his address, the pontiff passed right next to Lana in his open popemobile.

It was what every pilgrim in St. Peter’s Square hoped for.

“That was my ‘Oh, mama mia!’ moment,” Lana, a parishioner at Christ on the Mountain Church in Lakewood, told the Denver Catholic Register. “What I didn’t realize was what a ceremony the whole general audience is.”

The general audience is an opportunity for those visiting Vatican City to see and hear the pope and receive his blessing. That morning it included a reading from I Corinthians proclaimed in several languages and a catechesis from the pontiff on the gift of understanding from the Holy Spirit.

Lana was among the 45 faithful in the Denver Archdiocese’s pilgrimage group to the Eternal City for the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. That he and his fellow pilgrims got so close to the pope in the packed square for his weekly Wednesday audience was exciting – particularly after the group didn’t get into the square for the April 27 canonization, but instead watched it from a side-street.

Lana was touched by the pope’s April 30 message.

“Born of our sharing in God’s life ‎through faith and baptism, the gift of ‎understanding enables us to see in all things ‎the unfolding of his eternal plan of love,” Pope Francis said.

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Man’s intellect isn’t enough, we need to implore the Holy Spirit for understanding, the pontiff said.

“He said there’s a special spiritual insight with (the gift of) understanding,” Lana said. “We need more of that.”

Dee Taylor, who teaches religion to middle-schoolers at Our Lady of Fatima School in Lakewood, said she plans to share the pope’s message with her students.

“That was a beautiful homily on how we can use our intelligence to get closer to God but we need to use it with the Holy Spirit,” she said, adding that when the pope drove by she blew him kisses. “His face was so beautiful, so genuine and sincere.”

Ron Johanson, of Our Lady of the Valley Church in Windsor, said the event was over too quickly – especially the pope’s ride by him in his popemobile.

“The Holy Father was like this facing me when I raised my camera, but he was like this when I took the picture,” he said motioning. With a chuckle he added, “I got a nice photo of his back!”

Johanson’s wife Janet added: “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I wish there was another (general audience) this week.”

Roxanne King
Roxanne King
Roxanne King is the former editor of the Denver Catholic Register and a freelance writer in the Denver area.

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