|Pope Francis smiles as he leaves the airfield at Joint Base Andrews in a Fiat|
Sept. 22 outside Washington. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann,
Catholic Standard) See POPE-US-ARRIVE Sept. 22, 2015.
“He’s here! The Pope is here in the United States of America!” My mind and heart rushed with excitement as I viewed the images of Pope Francis and the President walking on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews displayed on the television above the baggage carousel at Reagan National Airport. As I waited for my luggage, the feeling soon changed to a sober realization that “I am here, present.”
I paused to take in everything. The excitement of seeing the Vicar of Christ in the United States is a periodic, but familiar feeling in my life. It first charged me in 1979 as a thirteen-year-old eighth grader awed at seeing Pope John Paul II ride through streets of Chicago’s ‒ my ‒ northwest side. I listened and heard him encourage me to say “yes” and to trust Christ and not to be afraid of actually seeing myself as His priest one day. The feeling revisited me in 1987 in Columbia, South Carolina at an ecumenical prayer service at Williams-Brice Stadium ‒ when as a college junior I heard the same Vicar of Christ speak to students, including me, “you must prepare yourselves to make your own contribution to society.” The feeling came again to me as a seminarian in Denver in 1993 at World Youth Day hearing the Saint challenge me not to be afraid as I would approach priestly ordination within the year. The feeling returned again in 2006 as a priest in Washington, DC, present with Benedict XVI who expressed “respect for our vast pluralistic society” at the White House.
+ Most Rev. Michael F. Olson
Bishop of Fort Worth