Thursday, September 24, 2015

Everything was Grace: The Papal Visit

Reflection and photos by Zani Pacanza, Archdiocese of Portland

Editor's note: Seminarian Phillip Shifflet is also offering reflections and photos on his blog about the papal visit.

Everything was grace. From the first moment we stepped inside the Immaculate Conception Basilica of Washington D.C., to meeting priests, bishops, cardinals, seminarians and religious from all over the country, to finally seeing His Holiness Pope Francis and attending the canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, everything was a grace-filled moment from God.

Zani Pacanza outside the Basilica decorated
with the banners for the canonization Mass.

Mount Angel seminarians Ethan Alano, Randy Hoang,
Dustin Busse, and Zani Pacanza

Sept. 23, 2015: We started the day by praying and thanking our Lord for bringing us here and allowing us to experience the Pope's first visit to the United States. The night before, we stayed at the Theological College right across the Basilica, the venue of the canonization Mass, so we had a good panoramic view of everything that was happening, from the rehearsals to the preparations.

At 12:30 p.m. we were escorted by security officials from the college to the basilica. We were ecstatic when we got seats at the front area by the center aisle. We were told that Pope Francis will be passing by our side, and we couldn't wait. We had a couple of hours before the start of the Mass, so we went around and enjoyed the grandeur of the Immaculate Conception Basilica. This church was definitely amazing! At the crypt was almost a hundred images of our Blessed Mother from all over the world: Europe, Latin America, USA, Africa, and Asia! We were just in awe.

We also made friends with a lot of priests, seminarians, and religious from all over the country. Some of them drove from nearby states, and some, just like us, flew from far-away cities just to be one with His Holiness.

At 4:00 p.m., everyone was silent. Then, the two main doors opened, and the Vatican entourage entered. Everyone stood immediately and erupted in cheers. At the end of the entourage, finally, Pope Francis walked in, waving at the people. The whole venue let out a rousing applause, shouting "Viva il Papa!" repeatedly. So there we were, seeing him parade from the vestibule, walking closer and closer to us. Finally, he was right in front of us, smiling, waving, then smiling some more. I couldn't describe how I was feeling at that very moment. I was in a daze. Everything was surreal! The Pope was right in front of us, I could almost touch his face!

Pope Francis and members of the faithful standing
opposite of the Mount Angel seminarians.

He continued walking up to the altar of the basilica, then stopped in front and prayed for us. Then he gave us his blessing, then prayed some more, and then processed to start the canonization Mass for Junipero Serra, the great missionary priest of California. As the Mass started, everyone was praying reverently and singing with the choir joyfully.

In a brief moment of silence during the Mass, I closed my eyes and uttered a fervent prayer of thanks. First, a huge thank you to Mount Angel Seminary for bringing us here. We felt very humbled to represent our beloved institution in this historic and momentous occasion.  We also felt, of course, deep gratitude to our Lord for allowing us to celebrate with his people, his community of faithful, his Holy Mother Church.

Everything was grace. Truly, the fire of the Holy Spirit was with everyone during the event and throughout the day! When we come back to Oregon on Friday, we hope to be able to spread out the grace we have received to the entire hilltop community,and wherever else we may go.  Like the Papal visit's theme, indeed, our call as Christians is to "share the joy of the Gospel because love is our message!"

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