May 2, 2008

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Holy Father’s visit gives renewed sense of hope for all

David SilerI will count among the greatest privileges of my life as having had the chance to stand with thousands of other people of faith in the midst of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

The pope’s visit to Washington, D.C., coincided with the annual gathering of Catholic Charities’ executive directors from all over the country.

We were profoundly blessed to be among those to gather at the White House to help welcome Pope Benedict and to attend his Mass at Nationals Park on April 17.

We arrived at Nationals Park about two hours before the Mass, and I stood in the middle of the baseball field and watched in awe as the body of Christ assembled for a magnificent celebration of the sacrament that unifies us all.

I was struck by the immense diversity of the people as we gathered together—people of every skin tone in the world, the able-bodied, people in wheelchairs, veterans of wars, priests, nuns and religious wearing every imaginable habit, the young, the old.

Yes, we were gathering because the pope would be among us, but I think I was most awestruck by being assembled with what felt most profoundly like the body of Christ.

As I stood among my brothers and sisters in Christ in this baseball stadium transformed into a beautiful cathedral, I could feel the presence of God in such a profound way that I was moved to tears.

I felt a sense of hope and pride that lifted my spirit in a way that almost startled me.

I recalled the words that we heard Pope Benedict speak the previous day at the White House: “I trust my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States.” This member of the Church was among those renewed and filled with hope.

At the conclusion of Mass, the bishops processed out of the stadium and behind them walked the Holy Father. I rushed toward the center aisle when I realized that he would follow the bishops out of the stadium. I got to within about 10 feet of the pope as I witnessed people reaching out to him with hopes of a handshake or some small touch. The energy that I felt seemed as though it would lift me off the ground!

It occurred to me that what I had just witnessed was much like the story of a sick woman who reached out just to touch the cloak of Jesus—and by this simple act of faith she was healed. She reached out with just a bit of hope for healing and that hope was just enough to become whole again.

I think this is what the pope meant by his statement while in the U.S. that “the one who has hope lives differently.”

My own hope is that no matter how close you were to the Holy Father during his visit that you, too, share a renewed sense of hope and that we will all be an even greater source of hope for those who have none.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at †

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