Just over a month ago we were blessed to meet Johanna and her family as they began their much planned and much anticipated journey to World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
Thank you Johanna for sharing your testimony, your joy, and your love with us in your words. It was truly a pleasure and a gift to meet you and your children and we hold you all in prayer and love!
After a year of everything going wrong, I finally learned to fully trust God’s perfect timing. The graces of the Spirit strengthened me to continue my spiritual journey and head to Philadelphia with my children to see Pope Francis. With our suitcases packed, seat belts on, and music ready, we began our trip! The six hour car ride consisted of constant chatter about the World Meeting of Families, what it would be like to see our Holy Father, how many other kids would be there, etc. Our faces hurt from smiling so much.
When we stepped out of the vehicle to make our way to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, we instantly felt at home. It was like the whole city had become a sanctuary. We could spot our fellow Christians a mile away by the simple fact that they were smiling as big as we were. After checking in at the World Meeting of Families, we explored. We met so many amazing people in just a few hours. I saw Christ every time I met someone new, I heard Him when they spoke, and I felt Him through their love. This is why, when meeting the beautiful souls behind My Saint My Hero, I was a mess. Every single lady there had Christ so obviously dwelling in them that I was in awe.
The days leading up to Friday were booked solid. There were so many things to do that it was hard to choose the perfect fit for our family. We celebrated Mass at Congress, attended the Museum of the Bible, the Vatican Splendors exhibit, the Liberty Bell, the World Meeting of Families Film Festival, and even managed to enjoy some authentic Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches!
Early Friday morning, we made our way to Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. This time, however, the busy city we had come to know and love resembled a ghost town. The crowded streets were now empty and the only people around were the law enforcement officers standing on every corner. At the end of our 1.5 mile walk, a security checkpoint was set up. We were “cleared” in a few minutes and escorted to Mass shortly thereafter. After Mass, we visited the public art installation, the Knotted Grotto, and wrote our intentions for Pope Francis to bless. It was a beautiful homage to his favorite image of Mother Mary: Mary Undoer of Knots.
Saturday morning we got out of bed super early and prepared for one of the most memorable days of our lives: We were going to see Pope Francis for the very first time! We would be breathing the same air… He might even notice us! With our lunches packed, we joined the thousands walking to the Francis Festival at Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The children and I were among the select few who had tickets for the Festival of Families (thanks to a loving member of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia). It was only 8 AM when we found a gap along the security fencing that placed us close enough to see the stage without squinting. Most importantly, it gave us the clearest view of Papa Francis. We “camped out” and watched people begin to pour in for hours. By 6:30 PM, we had gone from enjoying our papal tailgate to being packed like sardines. It wasn’t horrible, though… We did the wave a few times, giggled at the comedy of Jim Gaffigan, danced along with Sister Sledge, and waited.
We weren’t strangers to waiting; we had been waiting for a year! But this waiting was uncomfortable—painful even. My feet were killing me and I thought I was going to drop my toddler after holding him for so long… But with an intention in mind, I “offered it up” and continued to wait. Finally, he arrived. We could hear the shouting of our brothers and sisters growing louder and louder as he drove our way. I aimed my camera in hopes of capturing this moment, but refused to look through a screen. This was a big deal; I had to see it LIVE. A few seconds and thousands of camera flashes later, he drove past us. He exuded love and goodness; he radiated Christ. I felt completely overwhelmed. My heart was screaming, “Papa! Papa!” but my lips couldn’t move. I looked at my children and everyone surrounding us and it all made sense. We were a predicted 1.2 million people differing in age, sex, race, ethnicity, and vocation, celebrating family and our 266th successor of St. Peter. We made sense. As the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church… We made sense.
Read More about Johanna’s Journey – A Family’s Journey of Faith – World Meeting of Families