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S+L AT THE PAPAL VISIT: “We needed this.”

April 20, 2008
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"A soothing balm," is how one priest described the Holy Mass with Priests and Religious, celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral. "We are wounded. We needed this."
Witnessing the 40-something cleric crying at the start of the Mass awakened me to the great struggles of the American Church. As a layperson, I don't know what it's like for my vocation to be so often maligned, nor have I experienced the immense pastoral demands entrusted to today's priests and religious. Two priests, sisters or deacons were present from every diocese, which represents the Holy Father's best efforts to somehow celebrate the Eucharist with them all.
As a journalist, sometimes I forget that this is not a mere series of events to cover. The real story here is the spiritual firepower of the Church, gathered with its leader to worship Jesus. Without conviction that the Holy Spirit is stirring souls, so much of this week--the unbridled emotion, those waiting countless hours for a mere glimpse of the Holy Father, and yes, the wall-to-wall media coverage--should seem unnecessary and absurd. Yet I did not question the jubilant priest. Rather, I put down my notebook and returned my attention to the liturgy.
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