Christ in the City missionaries waiting for the Pope in Philadelphia

Makena Clawson - Makena Clawson

FORUM: 4 Reflections From Pope Francis’ Visit

Missionary learned valuable lessons during Holy Father’s US trip

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I wouldn’t travel across the country, sleep on the floor for five nights and wait seven hours in line to see just anyone.

But Pope Francis has this effect on you.

Being present at Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families moved me to a deeper encounter with the Lord and to reflect on the beauty of the family. Here are a few brief moments that surprised me.

  1. The beauty of the family

Pope Francis spoke of the beauty of the family in a way that was appealing to everyone at the Saturday night Festival of Families. Leaving his prepared remarks, he spoke to the crowd with enthusiasm and joy about truth, beauty, and goodness, and how all of these are most visible in the family.

“But the most beautiful thing that God did, says the Bible, was the family,” Francis said.

Francis, taking a tip from himself in Evangelii Gaudium, presented the heart of the Gospel message with love and captivated his audience. He proclaimed that God’s love for the world is so great, that even after the first man and woman made a mistake, he didn’t abandon them. He sent his son, and he sent him to a family.

Preaching the Gospel isn’t something to be ashamed of. Defending traditional family isn’t something embarrassing. Pope Francis gave us all an example of how to be joyful witnesses of Christ’s love and the beauty of the family. And his message was met by thundering applause from hundreds of thousands in the crowd. Fear of rejection is not an excuse.

  1. The privileged place of parents and grandparents

During Francis’ visit to the United States he visited elementary school children, inmates, and the homeless, showing that he is a Pope for all. He also reminded us of the special need to love our own families.

As a Christ in the City missionary, I see serving the homeless as one of the main ways I can participate in Francis’ mission. But he told all families to love especially the children and the grandparents.

How easy it is to love strangers and forget to love our own families! Loving the children and elderly in our families is not glamorous, like going on a mission trip to a far-away country. There is no praise and affirmation. And there is no break.

The opportunity to love our families, especially the children and elders, is widely applicable. There is no excuse to refuse this challenge to love those closest to us even when it is difficult. And the reward is great.

“The family is a factory of hope. A factory of resurrection,” Francis said.

  1. Francis’ humble plea for prayers

After being present at the Festival of Families, and the Papal Mass, something more than just the content of Francis’ words struck me.

The Holy Father asked me, a humble sinner, to pray for him, and he reiterated the message both days.  

“Pray for me. Don’t forget,” he said after Mass on Sunday.

His humility in asking for prayers from the entire crowd impressed me. He doesn’t consider himself above the need for prayers. He put himself on the same level as each individual in the crowd, recognizing that we can all communicate with God as he does.

How often we are nervous to ask for prayers or accept prayers from others! Then they might know I’m a sinner! They might know I don’t have my life together! I often think to myself. So I stick with the safe answer of asking for prayers for others I know who are sick or need prayers.

Pope Francis humbly acknowledged his need for God and asked us to intercede for him. We would be wise to follow his example.

  1. Excitement for the Pope, awe for the Lord

After waiting in line for hours and cheering until we lost our voices, it struck me how human Pope Francis is. He is just a man. A very holy man, but a man.

Am I willing to wait seven hours to see Jesus in the Eucharist? Do I wait in such eager anticipation to receive the Lord?

I would have fainted if Francis had stopped to shake my hand, but Jesus is constantly seeking me and loving me, and he comes to dwell with me physically.

After the excitement and anticipation of waiting to see the Holy Father at Mass, the crowd’s reverence during Communion was impressive. As Catholics, we recognize and rejoice in our spiritual father on earth, and he points us with love and tenderness toward the Lord.

Makena Clawson is a missionary with Christ in the City, serving the homeless in Denver, Colorado. She graduated from Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kansas, with degrees in Spanish and Journalism. 

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