Why I’m not going to see the Pope

Why I’m not going to see the Pope

As you’re probably well aware if you’re reading this, Pope Benedict flew to the US today for his six-day visit. It culminates on Sunday with Mass in Yankee Stadium which 3,000 Boston pilgrims will attend.

I hate to admit it, considering how many people would love to go, but I could have had gone. Our office was coordinating the pilgrimage and if I’d wanted to go, I could have. So why didn’t I?

For one thing, there’s no way we could bring the girls. The buses leave their starting points at 5:45am on Sunday and don’t get back until 11:30 that night. And I couldn’t leave Melanie to deal with the girls by herself all day while I jaunt off the New York. In addition, my niece has her confirmation Mass on Sunday and we want to be there for that.

And I’ve been to papal mega-Masses before in both Rome and Paris for World Youth Days. Let’s just say that they’re not exactly conducive to prayerful meditation and worship and now that I’ve done it, I don’t feel the need to do it again.

I don’t intend to toss cold water on anyone else’s enthusiasm. By all means, if you’ve never seen the Pope or been to a papal Mass, you should if you get the chance, whatever the size of the crowd.

But for me, at this time, it’s not something we decided to do.


  • Dom, We are going to try to go see him tomorrow as he enters the Basilica but we will not be attending mass either. A baseball stadium with a 2 year old and a 5 month old to see a white speck say mass for 45,000 people is just not something we feel we should be doing right now. Hopefully at least Cecilia will get to see him though and maybe, we hope, but just maybe we will get a little blessing and hopefully a few nice pictures. So far Cecilia can say “Pope” but “Benedict” has been a challenge.

  • Dom,

    5:45?!!! Our letter says to be at the buses at 6:00… you are making me nervous!!!!

  • Dom, I suspect the Holy Father would smile and say you are doing the right thing. He is a big fan of the family (aka the domestic church).

    I saw him once at a general audience in June 05. I’m glad I did, and I’m sorry I didn’t take the chance to see JPII back in 1979, when I was in Rome, but it doesn’t really matter. Listening to the Holy Father is far more important than seeing him. May God bless you and all your girls! (Gee, I hope Melanie doesn’t mind being referred to as a girl!!! It’s a compliment, really. (No one in their right mind would refer to me as a girl anymore. Sigh. Hey, maybe PBXVI would—I am 32 yrs younger than he is.)

  • I’ve heard other people say they weren’t fans of big papal Masses.  I think I can understand why, but on the other hand I would think it could be a glimpse of heaven to see huge throngs gathered at the Mass. especially at something like a World Youth Day.

    Is it the sound, the outdoor setting, the usual difficulties we all have at Sunday Mass magnified by the crowd, the length of the Mass? Does the jumbotron make you lose focus on God? Or is that the problem -it’s a *papal* Mass instead of a papal *Mass*? Would a papal Mass in a full St. Peter’s Basilica be much better or would the same things be there too?

    Just curious.


  • You’d think it would be heaven-like, but the reality is that we’re still here and all of us are fallen.

    By that I mean, when you have a crowd of 20,000 or more you are so far removed from the altar that it’s hard to maintain a prayerful attitude. And when you’re out in the open air in a place that’s not a church, it’s even more difficult.

    A giant church, like St. Peter’s, can hold 10,000 but the entire atmosphere and architecture focuses you on the altar. You can’t get that in a field or in a stadium, at least in the same way. And even in St. Peter’s with that many people, it’s very different from being in a parish church with a few hundred or even a couple thousand people at most.

    The jumbotron only adds to the feeling of disconnection since it reinforces the sense that you’re watching like on TV.

    At least that’s my sense, having attended a couple of papal mega-Masses and a couple of other Masses in non-traditional venues.

  • I have not attended a large outdoors mass like the one that will be at Nationals stadium. But I was blessed to attend two papal masses in Saint Peter’s and at neither of them was I especially close. At one I was about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way back in the main nave and at the other I was near the back of the right transcept. In both cases, it wasn’t especially easy to see the pope (both times JP II). At the second one he was ordaining 6 bishops and I couldn’t see any of what went on. But I never lost sight of the fact I was at a mass – I was in a Church and a beautiful one at that where the choir echoed and the statues anchored me and the overall environment keeps you not only reminded that you are at a mass but fully involved in, absorbed by and participating in that mass even if you are among thousands and cannot see a whole lot or see very well.

    I think that might be what Dom is getting at (correct me if I’m wrong, Dom). I agree with him – by all means a mass with the pope is worthwhile no matter where it is and part of me will be jealous of those who are going so I am certainly not intending to rain on anyone’s parade. I just think a Church is more intimate a setting and preferable for a Mass, but when the Holy Father cannot go to many of the fold in such a way (anyone who as seen St. Matt’s Cathedral will understand – pretty small for our nation’s capital’s cathedral) he will go to his flock in the way necessary.

  • Dom,

    Here in N.Y. I was given raffle tickets by my church for the Papal Mass to be held at Yankee Stadium.

    I was so disappointed when my ticket was not picked.

    So, I was somewhat surprised to learn that you had a chance to go and turned it down. 

    Nevertheless, I do understand your reason and I believe you made the correct decision. 

    I agree with the above comments about how these large outdoor Masses are not sacred ceremonies, but merely a way to see the Pope, who has become in our lingo – a famous person, a star, etc.

    My husband and I were present for the 1995 Papal Mass in Central Park, celebrated by Pope John Paul II.  We sat in the park for six hours on a cold and rainy day before the Mass began.  I do have to admit that as soon as Pope JP2 entered the park, Hubby and I both thought it was worth the wait. grin

    Best of luck to you and your family.

    P.S.  Thanks for all the wonderful pictures.

  • Dom, I have to agree I’m with you.  While I didn’t have any choice, and I was blessed to be in the congregation for the Holy Father’s Holy Mass in Yankee stadium (aside: there were several brave folks from Boston wearing Red Sox hats into the stadium – way to stand strong!) I had a lot of trouble staying focused on the prayer of the liturgy.  I don’t mean to cast sole blame upon them – but – the Neocatechumenate group from Boston (they had a huge banner proclaiming themselves to be that and were seated amongst the throng of Bostonians next to us Philadelphians in the upper deck) continually disrupted the atmosphere of prayer with their own version of prayer/praise.  The stadium simply makes it too tempting to treat the Mass, the entire gathering, like a huge entertainment event/rally or spectacle.  I can’t remember but a phrase or two from the homily (must get the plaintext from the website to digest) and I spent much off the time trying not to be upset about the people yelling at the Holy Father.  He couldn’t even begin the penitential rite b/c people were screaming out.

    All of these things combine to indicate why Pope Benedict is considerinng a review of the appropriateness of these large outdoor venue masses.  it is quite simply impossible to focus on the mass with more than a small crowd outside.  We had Mass at the seminary for about 3,500 people and it worked more or less; however, it is very very difficult to arrange an altar, ambo, etc. in such a way as to hold yoru attention and remain free from distraction during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    New York did a great job with both sacred music and the decor of the “sanctuary” to unify the presider’s chair, ambo, altar and cantor’s podium.  Despite all that work what I suspect most people will remember is not receiving their Lord and Savior in the Eucharist with the Bishop of rome presiding, but rather just seeing the Pope and yelling madly at him and singing short chants.  All that can be accomplished outside of the Mass and without the extreme difficulty of distributing Holy Communion in a stadium.  A perfect example – the rally for seminarians and young people at St. Joseph Seminary the preceding day!

    Anyhow – bottom line, it was a beautiful Mass, but the awesome beauty of the trappings and music simply put into stark contrast the utter unworthiness of the setting and its unconduciveness for prayer and contemplation/meditation.

  • I was lucky enough to get one of 8 tickets in our parish raffle.  Seated in the loge (middle deck)behind the first base duggout with I guess the Brooklyn Dio. people.  Our seats were assigned alphabetically not by parish.  From this area the Mass was great, good views of the Holy Father, people very reverent, it was very peaceful and prayerful.  Distribution of Communion was very orderly.  I left inspired, a bit emotionally drained.  The Church in NY did a great job organizing the event.  It was beautiful.