University reflects on lasting effects of papal US visit

Published: October 9, 2015

Staff Writer

The visit of Pope Francis to the United States resulted in a great resurgence of hope throughout the country last week.
Pope Francis continued his pontificate in a spirit of great service and gentleness. During his visits to the Capitol, New York City and Philadelphia, the Pope brought a message of love and solidarity meant for all people of this country, from Congress to the poor, from families to prisoners.

Christa Howarth, a junior theology major described her experience viewing Pope Francis’ Mass this past Sunday as unifying.

“I felt a great sense of the universality of the Catholic Church during those moments. It is a reality of the Church that it is always present to the world, but watching Pope Francis celebrating Mass enabled me to appreciate the connectedness of the Church in a much more profound way,” Howarth said.

The Rev. Dr. Richard Malloy, S.J. described the Pope’s approach as movingly personable. In reference to his address to Congress, Malloy said “He didn’t speak at us, but with us. He spoke to us with our images and our stories.”

Highlighting the way Francis drew from the examples of four particular Americans—Abraham Lincoln, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, Malloy continue.

“Pope Francis addressed us with the examples of our own people.”

This is something we can certainly be proud of and learn from. We have examples of social greatness within our own history that should never be forgotten.

Similarly, Howarth described the speech of Francis to Congress as a great positive. “He didn’t come before the Congress and berate the U.S., rather, he stood up and affirmed what was positive in our culture and social practices.”

Many were impressed by Pope Francis’ courage and hopefulness in his interactions with the crowds. He shared a meal with the poor of Washington D.C. on Thursday afternoon, prayed with those at the 9/11 memorial in Manhattan Friday evening and celebrated Mass at Madison Square Garden Friday night.

He visited prisoners within the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia on Sunday morning and embraced those many would rather avoid. Sunday evening, to close the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis celebrated Mass and delivered an improvised speech to an enthusiastic crowd of nearly one million people.

Regarding the family, Francis said,“All of the love that God has in himself, all the beauty that he has in himself, he gives it to the family. And the family is really family when it is able to open its arms and receive all that love.”
He acknowledged the challenges that are always a part of any family dynamic.

“In the family, indeed, there are difficulties. But those difficulties are overcome with love. Hatred is not capable of dealing with any difficulty and overcoming any difficulty. Division of hearts cannot overcome any difficulty. Only love. Only love is able to overcome. Love is about celebration, love is joy, love is moving forward.”

Many believe this message of love is one that Francis lived out during his brief but busy time here and it is one that he encourages everyone, regardless of religion, to move forward with.

As we face the challenges of our times, it is a great blessing that we can look to and learn from Pope Francis throughout the year. As the nation returns to the status quo, we can turn to his encyclical Laudato Si.

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