I am a 36-year-old bloke from Liverpool. I don’t consider myself to be particularly sentimental and I’m not necessarily prone to great bouts of gushing emotion. And yet, over the course of the four-day visit of Pope Benedict, I have found myself to be deeply moved, emotional and close to tears on numerous occasions. Why?
The first time it happened was when I was in work on Thursday morning. In between meetings, I logged on to the live stream to see “Shepherd One” land in Scotland. A knot tightened in my chest. Yes, I got emotional at the sight of an aeroplane landing.
On Friday morning, I was privileged to get a ticket to attend ‘The Big Assembly’. Before the Holy Father arrived, I read his speech to the children in the press office. It was beautiful. Surrounded by media hacks, I felt myself welling up at the profound words that the Pope was about to address to the nation’s children.
Later that day, I joined my family and friends on Millbank to wave at the Pontiff as he travelled from one historical event at Lambeth Palace to another at Westminster Hall. He drove past. We all cheered and waved. And after he passed, I felt my heart pounding and my eyes filling up again.
On television the next morning, I watched the Mass from Westminster Cathedral (see my blog, “Real Prayer”). At the end of the service, as ‘Benedicto’ walked out of the great doors to greet the young people waiting on the Piazza, my Adam’s Apple throbbed once more.
On Saturday evening, I was in Hyde Park and felt deeply moved by the uniqueness of being in a crowd of 80,000 people in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
On Sunday morning, sat with a small group of strangers from my parish in a cold, wet Cofton Park in Birmingham after a long and tiring early morning journey, my heart was squeezed some more with these historical words, simply spoken:
“We declare that venerable Servant of God
Cardinal John Henry Newman
Priest of the Congregation of the Oratory,
Shall henceforth be invoked as Blessed.”
Then, as I arrived home after an exhausting four days (how on earth must the 84-year-old Pope feel?), I switched on the telly and saw the Holy Father leave in his aeroplane after this truly historical visit. And, yes, I felt the urge to cry my eyes out once more. Why, why, why?
Not normal behaviour for me. Trust me. Honest. I am still trying to make sense of it all.
Writing this blog has actually really helped to make sense of my thoughts and responses to this visit. I will return to this blog for one more time in a day or two – a final recollection and summing up of this experience for me.