Sunday, April 20, 2008

* Yankee Stadium (Papal Mass)

Celebrated on April 20th at 2:30pm

Additional Links:

- Pope's Visit Homepage

- Pope's Official Itinerary

- Wikipedia: Pontifical High Mass

- Papal Visit Article

- Catholic Sites in NYC

- Daily News Article About Yankee Stadium

- Clergy Garments

- Another Catholic Blog
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Heavenly Father, we raise our minds and hearts to You as we look forward to the visit in April of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Let his teaching inspire us to greater Faith. Let his wisdom inspire us to greater Hope. Let his example inspire us to greater Love for all in our Archdiocese, our nation, and the world. We ask this in the name of Jesus Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
(Edward Cardinal Egan)

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Saturday Night Before the Mass
Here are a few of my thoughts before I attend, what looks to be, an all day event at Yankee Stadium tomorrow to participate in this Papal event.

First off, I received my ticket to attend the mass this week in the mail, and my dearest friend in the world couldn't help but laugh when he saw it, despite himself, as he began the refrain of that classic original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tune, "I've got a golden ticket, I've got a golden ticket..."

I must admit there is something in all this that seems a little bit ostentatious. Along with the ticket I received a flyer listing Papal merchandise for sale - including "Christ Our Hope" backpacks and travel mugs, baseball jerseys with Benedict inscribed on them, hats and even papal teddy bears. I understand that some of the revenue from these products goes to counterbalance the extreme cost of the Holy Father's visit to the States, it just seems a bit much though.

I do suspect I will be at Yankee Stadium tomorrow in the midst of 57,000 people (for once not complaining about the attendance of the congregation, huh?) at this mega-mass and dearly wishing for the silence and solace of one of the many quieter and more peaceful parish churches I've been to or have yet to visit.

All that being said, I am grateful that I do have this garish ticket and am lucky enough to attend the papal event. This could very well be the only time in my life I have the chance to see the pope, even if it may be from an obstructed view, very far away with the option of seeing him up on the jumbotron.

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9:29 am
Well, that was relatively painless. I exited the subway at Yankee Stadium around 9am and there were plenty of police and event staff directing everyone to the right gates, seats etc.

I would hate to be secret service here as most likely everyone in the crowd wears a guilty expression. I mean, we're all Catholic after all.

Somehow I've managed to get a really good seat, slightly to the left of home plate. The weather is overcast and slightly chill. This is not good baseball weather for sure. Over on the jumbotron Fox news is showing the Pope's visit to Ground Zero. Bells rings over the loud speaker - canned bells, of course.

Now there's only one decision to make before Mass begins in the afternoon. Should my lunch be popcorn, peanuts or cracker jacks?
- - -
Been sitting here in the stands watching various types. Some gentlemen wear crazy fluffy hats - are these the Knights of Columbus?

We're in for quite a show today - there's a concert from 12-2pm featuring Harry Connick Jr., Jose Feliciano, the Harlem Gospel Choir and a bunch of other performers. There's also an orchestra that will be playing the music of the Mass.

I've been reading the New York Times and though I'm typically more interested in articles on the Obama-Clinton battle, there's a bunch of Pope-related articles that have caught my attention this morning. The one I just read talks about the continuing love so many Catholics had for Pope John Paul II. People adored him, Catholic and non-Catholic alike - he was a star. Lately in discussions with friends I've heard a lot of comments about how Pope Benedict is not as well received or liked. Strange but, during the reign of John Paul I had plenty of issues with the Church, youthful rebellion and kind of general and complete disdain for the hierarchy of the entire institution. Back in 1996 or whenever it was that John Paul came to the States, to Denver, my mom tried to persuade me to go on a youth trip to see him - and I wanted absolutely no part of it. But now, I am in a very "Catholic" time in my life and for me to have the chance to see the High Pontiff I count myself extremely lucky and blessed. Because, at the time, I dismissed John Paul and the Church at that time, for me Benedict is my Pope.

I am having an awakening this year and he is the Pope of these times - despite what some say about his past, the fact he was part of the Hitler Youth and some claims he may have been an artillery soldier in the Nazi army, he is here now, led on a strange and bizarre path, and I am here too.
- - -
Wow. What an experience. Going to this Papal Mass was really amazing. Everything was so nice. The Pope drove past in his Popemobile maybe 20 feet away from where I was sitting. The crowd was going crazy and cheering and chanting his name and there was just something so wonderful about it all. A great experience and I treasure the fact I was there.

And the concert before - it was so fun to be there for. The orchestra was beautiful. Unfortunately the speakers they had didn't really blast the sound all that well-don't know if they were setup to be better for spoken word or if it was the gold papal finish they were covered in but the sound they emitted wasn't always that great. But that is the slightest beginning and absolute end of any complaining I'm gonna do about this event. The choirs were amazing, the singers we soulful. Jose Feliciano came out and sang Lean on Me and everyones demeanor in the congregation seemed so happy. Harry Connick Jr.'s How Great Thou Art was my favorite of the day, second only to the orchestras' great big Beethoven finale.

The procession of the clergy and the bishops and His Holiness was something I will probably never again witness in my life.

The Mass was good, it was just good and I can say no more. Other highlights of my day included seeing Governor Patterson, the monks of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and, I believe, Fr. Damien the former Abbot of Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky - a place every American Catholic should visit in his/her lifetime, in my opinion.

And now, where am I now? Well, after standing in a crowded Yankee Stadium hallway with 2,000 other people and realizing the subways would be overcrowded for a bit, I of course wandered into a local bar - and what a blessing this has been! I'm at a place called the Yankee Tavern and I'm feeling it's a pretty special place as far as Yankee drinking holes go. There's a bartender, Willie, who you can tell right off has a heart and that extra something that signifies a great bartender - after all they're born, not made. There's a gang of local Bronx cops who are buying each other rounds in the corner and hailing one of their buddies because he shook the Pope's hand. That's something special, huh? And I'm surrounded by Yankee Stadium staff, who again and again talk about how special the day was - whether they are Catholic or not - there was really truly something going on at the ballpark today.

- - -
Around 7 o'clock they pulled out a microphone and a PA system and this whole place suddenly turned into a karaoke bar. As they were beginning to announce the evening though, they toasted New York's finest, the cops in the corner I told you about. And the one officer who shook the Pope's hand was given the mic and he exclaimed what an honor it was and then led the bar in chants of "Let's go Benedict, let's go Benedict..." And the like. We all cheered his Holiness, Il Papa.

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