Pope Francis arrived in the United States on Tuesday and it seems it is all people can talk about! The media is covering all papal events almost non-stop, thousands upon thousands of people are flocking to see him, and Pope Francis themed memorabilia has popped up all over the place. It seems clear that the United States definitely has Pope Fever!
But what’s the big deal anyway? Why do so many people, Catholic or not, even care about the Pope? Who is the Pope to begin with?
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:15-18
Jesus, while He was still on earth, chose Peter as the rock to build His Church upon. Peter became the leader of Christ’s Church. Not above Christ, but to lead the Church to Christ. Jesus knew He would not be on earth forever. He knew that there would be many trials to face the Church here on earth. And He knew that throughout the good times and bad, the Church would need someone to look to as a leader here on earth. Someone to dedicate their lives to following the Lord and to leading His Church ever closer to Him. That is what it means to be Pope.
“The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful. ” LUMEN GENTIUM, 23
The Pope is chosen by the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us into deeper communion with one another and with the Lord. We can look back at the history of our Church and see the line of those who have followed in Peter’s footsteps to lead the Church. From St. Peter to St. Linus to St. Anacletus (Cletus) and so on, all the way to our current Pope Francis, these men have dedicated their lives to the Church. (Click here for a full list of popes).
While all of that should certainly be enough to excite anyone about meeting one of the popes, Pope Francis in particular draws large crowds due to his down to earth attitude and his constant example of practicing that which he preaches. To listen to him speak, to watch him in his interactions with others, you know that he truly lives out his Catholic faith. Quite simply, he lives striving to be more and more like Christ. And in his words and actions, he inspires us all to do the same.
So is it really that big of a deal that Pope Francis is here in the United States? Yes! The successor to Peter, chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead our Catholic Church, daily living his life as an outward example of that which we are all striving to achieve, has come to the United States! To our own home! This is most certainly a big deal! Our nation is in need of prayer. In need of an increase in faith and a return to the Lord. I believe that the immense excitement surrounding the Pope’s visit serves as proof of just how badly this country needs to return to its founding Christian principles.
I pray that the Lord guide Pope Francis and protect him as he addresses our Congress today, the United Nations tomorrow, and the millions who are coming to see him in DC, New York, and Philadelphia (where I will be!). I pray that all who hear him speak, whether in person or through the radio and television, are touched by his words and inspired to live out the Gospel in their lives, growing closer to Christ each day. And I thank the Lord for the blessing of having His Holiness Pope Francis here in our country. It truly is a big deal.
If you are interested in following more of the Pope’s journey here in the United States, I encourage you to visit the USCCB website for streaming video, news articles, prayers suggestions and more.