Pope fever

The Pope Francis fever gripped the Philippines during the last weekend. The minute the smiling, energetic and charismatic leader of the Roman Catholic Church decided to come to typhoon-ravaged Philippines, the government and the Church mounted massive preparations for his “apostolic” journey to the country. All came into fruition when millions of Filipino devotees flocked to the streets of Metro Manila to catch a glimpse of him, in the process catching the blessings of the vicar of Jesus Christ.

I was not as fortunate as I was twenty years, when, as a fifteen year old, I was sent as a delegate of the World Youth Day in the presence of then Pope John Paul II. Young as I was, but raised as a practicing Catholic both at home and in school, I was mesmerized by the presence of this father figure. That less than 5-second, 1-meter encounter as his popemobile passed by my spot in front of Baclaran Church gave me an indescribable feeling that I could only assume as awe. Too bad I wasn’t able to capture that moment for smartphones were yet to make their appearance in every hand and pocket. Looking back though, I could say that I am glad because I got to see him in person, not just on the screen on a phone, which was what happened during Pope Francis’ visit over the weekend.

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Now, twenty years after that papal visit, I am older and hopefully wiser. Despite the desire to see him, the husband and I chose to stay with the kids at home and follow his visit on TV for four days. I still got that feeling of excitement and enchantment despite looking at the Pope on an LCD screen instead of in person. Both popes exude that aura of holiness, like it was Christ himself you are looking at, and it was like a personal encounter. It gives you renewed hope, and his words provide you fuel and strength. I, along with millions of believers, am beyond elated that His Holiness chose to visit and be with Filipinos. His words are simple yet profound and powerful. He was not at all preachy, which made it easy to listen to him with your heart open.

Maybe I’ll see him in person next time. In Manila or if God permits, at the Vatican. I had crossed off the Holy Land from my bucket list, maybe I’ll get lucky again.

Habemus Papam

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The Catholic Church has a new leader! I felt a teeny, tiny twinge of disappointment that it was not Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, who became a frontrunner for the Church’s highest post despite his youth and recent appointment as cardinal. No matter, based on what I have read (been scouring the net for conclave and papacy related matters endlessly today hehe), it seems that there is hope in Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina). As a Catholic, I am praying that he leads the Church in the right direction given the many, many challenges of the times. Many would now look to him for guidance and blessings. I wish he would not lead the institution into obscurity with antiquated methods, but lead it to progress just like everything else in this world.

I could still remember that split second that only a meter separated me from Pope John Paul II in 1995 when his popemobile passed me in a motorcade during the World Youth Day in Manila. I was 15, and I have never felt anything but pure joy of being so close to what we perceive as God’s “representative” on earth. What an awesome, palpable feeling that I will never, ever forget to my dying day. I hope I get that chance again someday. Closer, if possible.