1. Did I mention there were more than 130 bishops at the Opening Mass? As the procession went on and on, I kept thinking, "Wow. This is a really big deal!" This was truly a gathering of the faithful from far and wide, all in celebration of the family. It was a beautiful liturgy indeed.
2. Our visit to the grotto of prayers for the Intercession of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, was breathtaking. It was such a beautiful sight.... thousands and thousands of white strips of cloth, each inscribed with a prayer of a pilgrim. We had to work our way through a crowd to pray at the icon and attach our prayers to the grotto. The instructions were to attach our prayers near the icon and take another prayer, read and pray it, and move it to the grotto area. The prayers were beautiful and heartbreaking. I continue to pray for the person whose prayer I read. When Pope Francis rode past the grotto, he stopped and got out of the popemobile and blessed this shrine of prayers. The crowd cheered as we watched on the jumbotron. Pope Francis has promoted devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots and it is beautiful. Whatever things in our life are "in knots" we can offer to the Blessed Mother. She will help us untie them as we work through our problems and challenges.
3. I attended a panel discussion about infertility that included a witness talk by Gianna Emmanuela Molla, the daughter of Saint Gianna Molla. It was an interesting mix of speakers, including the (pro-life gynecologist) brother of a friend of mine, and it was given in a mix of Italian and English. We had small radios and earphones to hear translation of the Italian. This was the most crowded session I attended. I was squished in a corner on the floor. Yet I was so moved by the whole thing.... the beautiful teachings of our church about life, the ache of those unable to conceive, the beautiful story of Saint Gianna giving up her life to birth her daughter. Gianna, daughter of a saint, was so ethereal and saintly herself. She spoke with such spirit and joy! There were couples in the room who obviously were experiencing the anguish of infertility. One couple sitting near me really drew my attention and prayers. They had arms around each other and were in tears for much of the talk. Jon and I know that ache to some degree as we had difficulties conceiving Ray and never were able to have more than two children, but my prayers are really with those not able to conceive at all.
4. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was surprised by how moved I was upon seeing Pope Francis with my own eyes. Until then I had felt annoyed at how people seemed to be acting like paparazzi chasing him and how the media was so hyped and always looking for scandalous angles to report. But when I saw him it was absolutely exhilarating. I felt such love for him as our "Papa" ... our leader here on Earth. I wanted him to know my love and fidelity.
5. During the Festival of Families Matt Maher sang "Lord I Need You." We all stood up and sang along. It was a beautiful, heartfelt prayer of thousands. Love that song.
6. At two different points during the Papal Mass there were calls for sacred silence. Hundreds of thousands of people on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Silence. Spine-tingling silence. I could feel the multitude of prayers being offered and the Holy Spirit covering us all with Love.
7. I will never forget the streams of yellow and white umbrellas working their way through the crowd at Communion time at the Papal Mass. They escorted the priests and deacons who brought the Body of Our Lord to His People. His Body on Earth fed by His Body, the Bread of Life. It doesn't get more moving than that!
These were moving moments for me that I treasure. However, it's in the midst of daily life where we're called to really live our Faith. If all of this doesn't make a difference in life going forward, then it's for nothing. My final post in this series will focus on the "take-aways" from the experience of the World Meeting of Families. I'll try to articulate the "so-whats?" and explain how the experience has changed me and shaped the way I'm living my faith today.