He came, they saw him and he conquered their hearts …
Despite all the controversies surrounding the papal visit, it turned out to be a huge success! A lot of people expressed their surprise to see Pope Benedict totally different from the ogre the media has pictured him to be. Instead of a tyrant, the people of Britain saw a shy, gentle and caring granddad, who welcomed everyone and exemplified the theme of the visit: heart speaks unto heart, Blessed John Henry Newman’s motto. In the numerous encounters, discourses and homilies he showed appreciation for what is good and beautiful, but at the same time gently reminded every one of the dangers of modern life and of what each human person is called to be. He challenged people of all faiths to “sit up and think,” the Prime Minister, David Cameron said. His visit inspired and strengthened the faith of the Catholic community and enabled the rest of the UK to see what and who the Catholic Church is.
I was privileged to join our parish group of Holy Family in Langley, for the prayer vigil with the Pope last Saturday in Hyde Park, London. More than 200 pilgrims from Holy Family made their way to London in different groups.
There was a festive atmosphere while we waited for the Pope to arrive – many groups provided entertainment for about 80,000 people in the park: singing, dancing, and having fun. While outside, we could see on the giant screens, an estimated 200,000 people are on the streets of London waiting for the Pope to pass by.
After the fun bit, some people came up the stage to share how the Catholic Church has made a difference in their lives. It made all of us see the scope of the ministry of the Church and felt proud to be a member of this great body of men and women who try to live the values of Christ. I was moved by how they found hope, courage and love in the midst of all their struggles and pain.
Then the Pope came and the atmosphere was just electrifying. Someone said it felt like one big family having a picnic in the park and granddad arrived with all the goodies.
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For me the most touching part were the moments of reflection during the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. After the enthusiastic welcome we gave the Pope, we listened to the Scriptures and prayed. There before Jesus and in the presence of his vicar a quiet stillness descended among us. There was silence – no one said a word, the children were quiet, we simply listened – all of us. I felt peace and realized God is here in our midst.
The Holy Father said:
At the end of his life, Newman would describe his life’s work as a struggle against the growing tendency to view religion as a purely private and subjective matter, a question of personal opinion. Here is the first lesson we can learn from his life: in our day, when an intellectual and moral relativism threatens to sap the very foundations of our society, Newman reminds us that, as men and women made in the image and likeness of God, we were created to know the truth, to find in that truth our ultimate freedom and the fulfilment of our deepest human aspirations. In a word, we are meant to know Christ, who is himself ‘the way, and the truth and the life’.
Newman’s life also teaches us that passion for the truth, intellectual honesty and genuine conversion are costly. The truth sets that sets us free cannot be kept to ourselves; it calls for testimony, it begs to be heard, and in the end its convincing power comes from itself and not from the human eloquence or arguments in which it may be couched. Not far from here, at Tyburn, great numbers of our brothers and sisters died for the faith; the witness of their fidelity to the end was ever more powerful than the inspired words that so many of them spoke before surrendering everything to the Lord. In our own time, the price to be paid for fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied. And yet, the Church cannot withdraw from the task of proclaiming Christ and his Gospel as saving truth, the source of our ultimate happiness as individuals and as the foundation of a just and humane society.
Finally, Newman teaches us that if we have accepted the truth of Christ and committed our lives to him, there can be no separation between what we believe and the way we live our lives. Our every thought, word and action must be directed to the glory of God and the spread of his Kingdom, Newman understood this, and was the great champion of the prophetic office of the Christian laity. He saw clearly that we do not so much accept the truth in a purely intellectual act as embrace it in a spiritual dynamic that penetrates to the core of our being. Truth is passed on not merely by formal teaching, important as it is, but also by the witness of lives lived in integrity, fidelity and holiness
Dear young friends: only Jesus knows what definite service he has in mind for you. Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart. Christ has need of families to remind the world of the dignity of human love and the beauty of family life. He needs men and women who devote their lives to the noble task of education, tending the young and forming them in the ways of the Gospel. He needs those who will consecrate their lives to the pursuit of perfect charity, following him in chastity, poverty and obedience, and serving him in the least of our brothers and sisters. He needs the powerful love of contemplative religious, who sustain the Church’s witness and activity through their constant prayer. And he needs priests, good and holy priests, men who are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep. Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you. Ask him for the generosity to say ‘yes’! Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfil your vocation.”
Thank you, everyone, for praying for the success of the visit of the Pope. The past four days have indeed given us innumerable glimpses of God’s grace.
See link for more pictures and videos of the papal visit.
Prayer Vigil in Hyde Park / The Visit in Pictures / The Visit Live / Home – The Visit.