By now, most Filipinos already know the good news that Pope Francis will visit the Philippines from January 11-15, 2015. Here are my thoughts about what this means.
For My Fellow Filipinos
I still remember the excitement of World Youth Day 1995 when Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines. It is, indeed, a rare honor and a joy to host the pope in our own country, and no doubt we will spare no effort in preparing to welcome Pope Francis with the best of Filipino hospitality that we are known for world over.
Preparations for the papal visit should be more than the externals like coordinating the logistics or mastering the actions to the event’s theme song. Our attitude to the papal visit should be more than a fangirl’s anticipation of the arrival of a favorite celebrity. The papal visit is not just a chance to take selfies at the public gatherings to post on Facebook, although there is nothing wrong having fun.
The papal visit is an opportunity to be physically close to the vicar of Christ on earth, to be moved by his words and actions. It is, above all, a moment of grace, a moment to be converted. The best preparation for the papal visit would be to cultivate and till the soil of our souls to make it good ground for the word of God. Concretely, this means going to Confession to remove any obstacles in our souls to the working of grace; frequent, worthy reception of Communion; and doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Among the spiritual works of mercy is instructing the ignorant. Those of us fortunate to have experienced good religious education should share what we know with those who do not even know who and what the pope is. To do this effectively, we should deepen our own understanding of the papal office, as well as our awareness and love for the universal Church.
Finally, we must pray for the Pope and for ourselves, for the fruits of the papal visit. “Fruits” here means both spiritual and temporal, because a renewed spiritual life as a result of the papal visit would also benefit temporal society. Let us pray that the papal visit in January 2015 will benefit our country long after the headlines will have stopped reporting about it.
For the Rest of the World
The rest of the world should not feel left out. Although the physical presence of Pope Francis in the Philippines in 2015 will be a special privilege for the Filipino people, the words he will utter and the graces that God will send through him during those days will be for the universal Church.
Modern telecommunication technology gives us access to the pope’s words and doings wherever he is. We should take advantage of it to be aware of his concerns and his messages, so as to unite ourselves spiritually with the vicar of Christ on earth and follow his guidance.
We here in the Philippines also request the rest of the world for prayers for Pope Francis and for our country, for the fruits of the papal visit. In turn, we will take advantage of the moment of grace to pray for the rest of the universal Church. Every papal visit to any country, whether our own or not, is an opportunity to look beyond petty concerns and be united our brothers and sisters in faith wherever they may be.
The news of the upcoming papal visit is a blessing to our country which has suffered a lot recently due to natural disasters and unfortunate developments in local politics. The joy that will from welcoming Pope Francis to our shores is not something we will keep for ourselves alone. We invite the rest of the world to join Pope Francis in spirit as he visits the Philippines bringing the word of God. The Pope will be in the Philippines in January 2015, but the moment of grace will be for everyone, everywhere.