Watching the Pope’s Mass in Philadelphia from the comfort of our domestic church

We don’t tend to watch much TV. You’re probably thinking that’s because we’re all reading War and Peace or reciting Robert Louis Stevenson poems. Actually, it’s because if the TV is on, it’s usually Netflix.
But a Papal Mass on a Sunday afternoon? That’s the perfect chance for a family to gather around the TV. And, although we have talked quite a bit about the fact that Pope Francis is visiting our country, and our kindergartener has even been learning about him in school—yay for Catholic school!—we hadn’t watched any of the papal visit as a family.

To make it fun, I told our boys we would have a little party. They spread towels out in front of the TV and waited. And waited. And waited. Mass couldn’t start soon enough.
We ate hot dogs (Franks in honor of Pope Francis), “pope-aroni,” “Vatican Veggies,” bags of “pope-corn” (leftover from the ones we gave to Loyola students at our campus PopeFest last week), and fruit cut into cubes. Let’s just call them St. Peter’s Squares.

I had planned to offer Pope-ettes (there are mini-chocolate donuts called Popettes) and pope-sicles for dessert, but somehow our kindergartener talked me into buying a small package of Starburst, which became “Vaticandy.”
I regret not serving Vati-canned tuna or picking up Pope-yes fried chicken. Maybe next time.

Pope-corn created by my talented colleagues

Before Mass started, John and I explained that even though we would be watching Mass, we had already attended Mass, so we could talk and ask questions. That ended up being the best part.
Thanks to our sons’ questions, we talked about who the Pope is and what he does. We explained about deacons and bishops and cardinals. We talked briefly about vocations. We talked about the Catholic Church and how it includes people from all over the world. We listened to the readings in other languages and our second grader, who has learned the sign of the cross in Spanish was excited to hear the word “espíritu.”
Together we marveled at the crowd and wondered where Uncle George was spending the day.

As we watched the Pope kissing babies, we reminisced about how our younger son had been blessed by an archbishop in China. Somehow we had never mentioned that to him, and he listened with interest. And we talked, as we often do, about the Catholic Church in China.
We didn’t just focus on the Church, of course, but also on Jesus. And I loved hearing John’s answers to our sons’ questions. Thank goodness for that master’s in philosophy.
My favorite question of the day, though, came from Daniel, who is 5.
“Mama,” he said, “why is the Pope’s heart the goodest in all the world?”
I had to stop and think. First I explained that the Pope is actually a man just like any other person, and that he still does the wrong thing sometimes. But, I said, the Pope has Jesus as his closest friend. And he is always talking with him and listening to him and trying to show other people how to live life well for God. And, I explained, when God asked him to be a priest, he said yes. And then eventually he became the Pope. And now so many people love him because he loves Jesus and that shows.

By the time the Pope’s homily ended, our children had drifted away to play. Still, I am so happy we enjoyed that time together, watching the Holy Father celebrating Mass and sharing our faith in a special way.
I had had an offer to go to Philadelphia today. I realized it wasn’t going to work for my schedule, so I backed out, but even this week I was thinking about what I might be missing by not going. But sitting in our living room together, as a family, listening to Pope Francis talk about the family, I knew I was right where I needed to be.
“Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit,” the Holy Father said in his homily. “It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. ‘Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded,’ says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.”

Get a taste of my experience at the Papal Mass in Washington, D.C.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.