On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, at exactly 4PM Eastern Daylight Time something exceptional will happen in the United States. Something that only the Catholic Church could do. Something that is unique and never done. At precisely 4PM in NY, 8PM GMT, 1600 military time, the wheels of Shepherd One carrying His Holiness, Pope Francis will land on American soil after his brief visit to Cuba. When those wheels touch the runway I want you to listen carefully. Wherever you are: in the middle of a cornfield, out on a lake, or in the middle of Manhattan, just listen. Every bell in every tower in ever church, monastery, cathedral, oratory, convent, basilica and chapel will ring. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, in every state, in every city, in every village, in every town…every bell will toll to welcome the Vicar of Christ to The United States of America. The sound could perhaps be deafening. That is pretty impressive, and no one can quite accomplish this to the scale of the Catholic Church. I will be in the bell tower to ring the church bells. Perhaps, you too might ring a bell, no matter how small, to join the great welcome.
I had the exceptional fortune of meeting Pope Saint John Paul II in Rome. Words cannot express what it is to be in the presence of the Pope, let alone actually speak with him for a brief moment, and even be hugged by him. We know how much Pope Saint John Paul traveled. He wanted to bring the gospel to every person in every corner of the world. It has been noted that Pope Saint John Paul was seen in person by more human beings than any other human being that has ever lived. Everyone knew him: Eskimos, Aborigines, bond traders, and homeless persons. And there is no person alive—no one—who can gather the crowds like the Pope. No celebrity, no rock star, no president, no king, no one! When he visited Manila in 1995, Pope Saint John Paul gathered over 6million people in downtown Manila for Mass, only to be surpassed by Pope Francis drawing over 7 million in Rio de Janeiro. And when he traveled to Holy Ireland in 1979 Pope John Paul gathered over 3 million people. While that number may not seem much, the total populate in Ireland was 3.3 million people. It is said that the entire country of Ireland came to a standstill for those three days. There was nothing south of Dublin but cows.
And so, here he comes! The first pope from the New World is coming to see you. His first time ever in America. And everyone is waiting. I hope you will get caught up and swept up in the pride of being a Catholic as Our Holy Father comes to America to greet saint and sinner, the faithful and the just plain curious. And if you don’t ring a bell to welcome him, at least welcome him into your heart.
Fr. Gerard Gordon