I gripped my cell phone harder as I listened to my aunt speak about Pope Francis. Stunned, questions ran through my head. As she talked on and on about his visit, all I could do was wonder: Why have I not been jumping up and down for months? After all, Pope Francis is arriving in just two weeks! Isn’t this a reason to be excited?
Maybe my lack of enthusiasm stems from the fact that I won’t be able to see the pope and attend one of his papal Masses. Maybe my lack of attention is due to my tremendous ability to lose track of time and important events. Perhaps it is because the United States is so large that my physical distance from his visit contributes to my emotional distance. Or maybe I have just been too caught up in my own life. Whatever the case, it’s time to kick things up a notch.
After all, Pope Francis’s visit is a big deal, and we should really stop and think—for just a moment—of what an important occurrence this is. This is the first time he has visited the United States. He will be the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress. He will meet with President Obama. He will visit a school in Harlem. He will meet countless people. I feel that his visit is very timely. After all, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is some definite division and many problems in this country. We really need the help of God’s grace, and I have no doubt that God will work wonders through Pope Francis.
Regardless of whether or not we’ve been paying attention to the fact that the pope is coming, it is time that we begin preparing, or make our preparation more intense. I know that some Catholics are wary of Pope Francis because of what they have read, heard, or seen, and I ask those people to set aside their judgments and prayerfully prepare for his coming. I am sure that the majority of Catholics here in the United States will not be able to see the pope, which gives us even more reason to prepare for his visit. I don’t need to spend time planning a trip to Philadelphia, so instead, I can make the time to prepare for the papal visit in other ways.
Fast and pray. Not only will Pope Francis be meeting with tons of influential people, but he will be traveling a lot. Furthermore, since he has never been to the United States, I’m sure he might experience some culture shock. On top of that, he will be speaking on some very important, extremely relevant issues. We need to pray for him and all of the people he will be with. Right now, we have enough time to pray a novena that will end right before his visit. Pray the Rosary for him, or attend an extra Mass each week. Pick small mortifications as sacrifices for Pope Francis. For example, if you like sugar and cream in your coffee or tea, you can drink it plain one morning. Drink your water without ice, take a cold shower, or eat a simpler meal. Find a meaningful way to sacrifice, and offer up that fast for Pope Francis.
Get to know the schedule. There are multitudes of websites out there with details on the papal visit. Copy down Pope Francis’s schedule, and post it in your home. That way, you can see where he is and pray especially for those people whom he is speaking with.
Spread the word. Call out fellow Catholics to fast and pray with you. Talk about the visit with your parish. Post your #flatfrancis picture on social media to spread the word. Share your excitement for the pope’s visit!
Read his works. Evangelii Gaudium excited many people when this apostolic exhortation came out a couple of years ago. This document is not that old, but do people read it and talk about it anymore? Brush the dust off your copy and dive into the beautiful message once again. How about Laudato Si’? This document received tons of attention when it came out early in the summer, but many people did not even read it, and only perused articles about it. So, I encourage you to take the pope’s visit as a good excuse to pull out those documents and read. If you’re not taking the time to plan a trip to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., or New York City, you can probably make the time to read at least a little bit of his works.
These are just some small ways we can prepare for Pope Francis’s visit, and I am sure that there are many, many more! Get creative, and find ways to show the world how meaningful this event is to us. Let us recognize the impact of his visit, which will soon take place, and prepare accordingly!