Meeting the Pope is like…

Finally meeting the Pope is like finally meeting your father whom you haven’t seen for a long time, and that father meets you with a smile and through your conversation, he points you to Our Father in Heaven – God.

Finally meeting the Pope is like finally meeting your long-lost friend, and that friend embraces you and through your conversation, he points you to our Friend and Brother, the Son of God – Jesus.

Finally meeting the Pope is like finally meeting your lover that who haven’t met for some time, and that lover smiles at you and embraces you and says, “I love you.” And through your conversation, he points you to the Source of Love – God.

[Featured image courtesy of fb.com/papalvisitph]

I was among the six million people who gathered in Luneta last Sunday, January 18, for the Papal Mass. With a group organized by the Student Catholic Action of the Philippines and the PLM-SCA, we gathered together at the Malate Parish in January 17 to get to know each other and gather in prayer before proceeding to the Quirino Grandstand for the big day.

Small group sharing. On my right is Niel, a student studying to become a seaman. On my left is Czarina, a graduating high school student.
Small group sharing. On my right is Niel, a student studying to become a seaman. On my left is Czarina, a graduating high school student.

The fellowship that Saturday night ended around 11pm. As per original plan, we should proceed to Luneta at 3am. But for some reasons, the leaders had to adjust. They announced, “We will proceed at 1am. For now, take some rest.”

The other boys chose not to sleep. So instead of going to the designated room, I located a corner, pulled a monobloc chair, sat on it and while holding my cellphone plugged in a socket to be charged, I also attempted to charge myself through a power nap. I don’t think I had a sleep but I felt recharged somehow.

By 12:30am, I had to freshen up.

At 1am, we lined up to march to Luneta.

While walking along the streets – some area with dim lights while some with colourful lights from the surrounding establishments – we prayed the rosary.

When we arrived at the Luneta, there were already a flock of people. Some slept around the gated area.

We waited for hours.

At dusk, we finally entered and at the grounds of Luneta we secured our strategic place.

After a few minutes, people started making the grounds their beds and slept like a baby. With my tired eyes and body begging for rest, I followed what the others did. I took a slumber for a couple of hours.

We woke up to have our breakfast. Even though it was prepared hours back, it was still a bit warm. With a happy tummy, we started taking pictures. (Actually, even while marching along the streets and waiting outside the gate, we took a lot of pictures.)

with the jolly and friendly Lipa SCAns
with the jolly and friendly Lipa SCAns

The schedule of the mass was at 3pm. That means we had to wait all day.

At 10am, I was expecting for the sun with my sunglasses on but the sun was covered with clouds. And the rain began pouring.

Some put on their rain coats; the others just covered their head, while I pulled out the hood of my rain jacket. (Later that day, I realized that the best option was to have a raincoat.)

with SCAns from Lipa and Tagbilaran
with SCAns from Lipa and Tagbilaran

The rain wasn’t pouring that hard but the rain kept pouring. It had been raining up to the time we left the event in the evening.

Around 3pm, the crowd started cheering. The faithful flock regained their energy and excitement and so have I.

“The pope is now here,” they shouted. “The pope is now here,” I echoed.

As the pope passed by, I looked at him, waved at him, and smiled at him. I felt that he also looked at me, waved at me, and smiled at me.

While I and the people around were cheering and noisy and wild, I felt a moment of silence, a moment of peace, a moment of grace.

The pope went around before and after mass. That was like a triple treat with the holy mass at the center – with a conversation with God at the center.

After the big event, our group squeezed in the crowd and walked our way to our original meeting place at the Malate Parish.

I realized that I was soaked in the rain. I wanted to change all my clothes and remove my shoes but I did not bring extra pants and slippers. So I just changed my shirt.

Approaching one of the group leaders, I said, “Thank you so much. I hope I can join you next time in other activities.”

I walked to the streets and randomly waved for taxi cabs but none was pulling over. I moved further to the main avenue and waited for bus or jeep. After a while, I whispered, “I might not be able to take a ride.” So I marched along the sidelines along with the pedicabs.

At a corner, I thought I went the other direction. Calling at the police officer passing by, I asked, “Which part is this road headed?” He answered with a question, “Where are you heading?” I responded, “Makati.” Then he said, “Just proceed. At the end of this is Taft. You can take the LRT there.”

Truly, at the end of Quirino Avenue, I saw the train station. As I drew closer, I dropped the thought that I would take the LRT. The station was closed.

After a couple of blocks, I saw someone to confirm my direction. He recognized my shirt. Call it coincidence or better – divine appointment (just like that police) – he also attends The Feast (a weekly gathering of the Light of Jesus Family). He was also headed to Makati. I found a companion.

This reminded me of the song of Alabama, Angels Among Us. “Oh I believe there are angels among us sent down to us from somewhere up above. They come to you and me in our darkest hours… to guide us with the light of love.” (And they do come even literally.)

It was a long day. But it was also a lovely day.

It was a tiring day. But it is also a treasured day.

What can I say, I was soaked in the rain but I see it in a different way.

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Here’s what I have to say:

“I am soaked in God’s love, mercy and compassion.

Getting drenched in the rain for nine hours is nothing compared to being drenched with God’s blessings.

Standing all day wet and cold is nothing compared to God standing by you day by day.

Walking all the way from Luneta to Malate then to Makati is nothing compared to God always walking with you every day.

Thank you, Pope Francis. When I saw you, I felt closer to Our Father. When I saw you, I felt drawn closer to Jesus, our dear Friend and Brother. When I saw you, I felt my faith firmed up to the Source of Love, Mercy and Compassion – God.”

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In closing, let me say that none of these is about being worthy or being entitled. Nobody is. All these graces we receive because of God’s mercy and compassion.

My friend, what is your story? How was your encounter with the Pope, in person or on TV? Share the experience and through your story, may others experience the love of God as well.

Live your dreams with love,

Chris Dao-anis

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