The biggest takeaway from the Pope’s comments at Vespers tonight at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York is this: The attack on women religious is truly dead. “In a special way I would like to express my esteem and gratitude to the religious women of the United States.” Pope Francis said.
At St. Patrick’s Church, where he met with the homeless and those at Catholic Charities who care for them, the Holy Father began by invoking St. Joseph, “a person whom I love, someone who is, and has been, very important throughout my life. He has been a support and an inspiration. He is the one I go to whenever I am ‘in a fix’.” It is rare that we hear anyone invoke someone who lived two thousand years ago with such intimacy, but the pope was only getting started.
There are not many people in the world who, if asked to identify four Americans worthy of emulation, would come up with the list Pope Francis did in his speech to a joint meeting of Congress: Abraham Lincoln, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. This is the second day in a row that the Holy Father has mentioned Rev. King, the most prominent U.S. clergyman to be killed in the twentieth century and truly one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. (On EWTN, in advance of the talk, the commentators gave a shout out to Mother Angelica. The pope did not.)
The Holy Father’s homily at the Mass canonizing Fr. Junipero Serra was, like all this pope’s homilies, a meditation on the Word of God the assembly had just heard together in the context of our daily lives. I have said before that I sometimes miss the density of a Pope Benedict sermon but, especially at Masses for the masses like today’s, there is much to be said for accessibility.
And, Pope Francis again returned to a theme he struck this morning at the White House: inclusion. He said:
I have said all along that, for me, the most important speech the Holy Father will give is the one at St. Matthew’s Cathedral when he speaks to the U.S. bishops. The speech did not disappoint. Indeed, it is a masterpiece, not only touching on the themes of his pontificate but doing so in a way that his words evidence what he is talking about.
The theme of the Holy Father’s talk at the White House was encounter and dialogue, just as it was in Cuba, a comparison that alone will make some of our conservative friends a bit hysterical. He mentioned that he is the son of an immigrant family in the second sentence of his remarks, and notes that America was built by immigrant families, surely another major theme of this trip. His English is difficult to understand, which means that everyone will really, really be listening to every word he has to say. (N.B.
“E se è necessario che io reciti il ‘Credo’, sono disposto a farlo!”
Throughout the visit, I will be posting as quickly as possible with quick analysis about the papal visit. There were no speeches at the arrival ceremony at Joint Base Andrews a moment ago. Two items stood out. The President and Vice President brought their families. Sometimes, it is easy to forget what beautiful families both men have. I especially thought it was poignant that Mr. Obama brought his mother-in-law, seeing as the pope often speaks about the importance of grandparents. The other item came during the receiving line. The pope moved down the line, with the president at his side.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan throws his support behind efforts to link the 20-week abortion ban and paid family leave. Here is a classic case of the extremes controlling the debate and frustrating the kind of linkage that the cardinal rightly calls for. The GOP does not want to allow an amendment linking the two because they oppose paid family leave. The Dems do not want to make the 20-week abortion ban more likely to pass, so they oppose the linkage.
Distinctly Catholic: Everyone is speculating about what Pope Francis will say when he speaks to a joint meeting of Congress, or at the United Nations.