I knew the Pope was coming for months.
I prayed that my husband or I would be selected via the lottery. That did not happen. I was okay with that as I felt that those that were chosen needed to see him more than we did. After all, I could watch it live on TV.
About a week before he was to arrive, I would receive the best news ever; someone I had never met but had known via a FB page about September 11th was offering me their spare ticket to see the Pope in Central Park. I said yes immediately and then I thought, “What are you nuts?!! You don’t like big crowds! Central Park is going to be a mob scene! Say no! Say no!” Every day, I thought of yet, another excuse to give this wonderful person but I couldn’t do that. I felt if the good Lord heard my prayer and this extra ticket was sent my way, then I would be disrespectful in rejecting it.
As the time drew closer, I had no mixed feelings about going except that I knew my body would not behave well. I knew my back would hurt within the hour or two of standing. I knew my neck would be screaming out the injustice I put it through and my knees would not be so kind. I knew that I would be putting myself through something, not-so-good, especially since two days later, I would be participating in the Tunnel to Towers run. That run puts me in bed for a day and I wouldn’t be able to do that either because the day after I would have two tours plus my other volunteer duties at the museum.
What in the world was I thinking? But your prayers are answered, you don’t say anything but THANK YOU GOD. To do otherwise, in my opinion is disrespectful.
I did ask my friend if it would be okay to wear sneakers and jeans as I would rather be as comfortable as I can and to my delight she said yes, that the pope would not want me to be uncomfortable. Bless her heart. She put my mind where it needed to be and reminded me why I loved this pope so much. Still, I did have that inkling feeling that it would be a long day and I would be limping all the way home. Did I really want to do that? Should I really do that? I kept hearing my doctor’s words, “Sonia, its good to push yourself but sometimes you just over do it and don’t know when to say no.” It didn’t feel right to say no.
Friday morning arrived, I put on my Purple Pope blouse as my mother used to call it. Odd that I haven’t worn that blouse since my mom passed away. It was hers. And yes, it was a tad big but I wanted a part of mom with me. She knew I loved purple and when she bought that shirt, she wore it when she came to see me at the hospital after my cancer surgery.
“I went to 3rd Avenue and my friend told me theese was theee last shirt and she saved eet for me. I wore today for you. Feel better, please.” It always made me smile when mom thought purple would make it all go away. I also found the Rosary beads I had bought her when I went to the Vatican and had Pope Benedict bless them. She accepted the Rosary beads but said in her broken English accent, “I’ll take dem, but I no like heeem. He no look like hee is berry much like God to me.”
“MAMI,” I said. “That’s the Pope, El Papa! You never let me say anything negative about the church. What’s wrong with him?” I asked.
“I jess no like heem. But I keep the Rosaries, they come from the holy place.”
My mom would give those Rosary beads to me before she passed along with a picture of an angel and a rainbow. The picture was a bit tattered but she had saved it for a long time because it had an angel. She knew angels held a special meaning for me, and so I thought I’d bring them with me to Central Park and have them with me when Pope Francis blessed the crowd. Mom would have been happy; The beads and the purple shirt.
The wait was long. People were too crazy for me. My new friend was one funny lady who made the long wait pass by much quicker. We began to look into the park and realized we didn’t stand a chance to be anywhere near the front because of the long lines we had to wait before getting past security but we kept saying, we’ll catch a glimpse of him and that was enough for us.
Finally we passed security and as we made our way into the park, people were running. All we did was ask two people, where’s the best place to stand to see him, and we made our way there.
Guess what? We were in the front. But now there was more time to wait and the people behind us were getting restless and just plain crazy. My friend and I decided we were both going to H-E double hockey sticks in all religions because the thoughts in our minds were not so nice. This was the pope we were waiting to see and the people were inching their way to the front as if those of us there weren’t really there. They were just nuts! At one point a woman told me, to move my bag because she could fit there since she was shorter. I told her I was sitting there and just got up to stretch. She didn’t care, she belonged there, she said. Patience, dear Lord, I prayed. Patience.
We chatted with a young boy who was filled with questions and in awe of the policemen all around. I reached into my bag and gave him a pin that I had from the NYPD. He thought it was a shield. I showed him my mini shield. we chatted more with the people around us,not the crazy ones, the ones who felt like we did. I met someone from my neighborhood. I called her my cousin. We thought of ways to push the crowd back if needed with my friends cane which by the way matched my purple blouse. The young boy was growing restless as the crowd behind us kept pushing further out into the street. Finally the boy’s father, big, tall and very strong said, “If you keep pushing and you hurt my son, I will push back. We can all see him. Relax.”
They still pushed. Now we were seeing faces from the people who were far behind us, very close to us.
My friend and I wondered if we were run over by the pope mobile would that make us saints or martyrs? We thought of the names we’d like for ourselves.
Every time an official car came by, the crowds would roar. By the fifth or sixth time, I stopped getting excited.
Suddenly there was a roar in the crowd and someone said, “Look… there’s a rainbow.”
Now there was no rain… so how could there be a rainbow??
I looked up…
Tiny, but it was there…
Amazing… the crowd began to say it was a blessing…
I looked up a few times more and thought… the rainbow was in the mist of a white line… a path… the pope was near…
The cloud disappeared and then someone called out again and it seemed to have gotten bigger…
The police officer that was standing in front of us said, “You guys are filled with superstitions.” I smiled. This was no superstition. It could mean whatever it meant to whomever, but for me it meant that God was paving the way for the Pope. To me it meant that the Pope was very near.
People were speaking amongst themselves and I began to think about how I almost missed this. By this time by back was burning. My knees were angry with me. I didn’t care.
The crowd went back to their conversations. People were still inching their way to the front. My friend was eating her healthy salad which she offered some to me and I refused because it was junk food day for me and I was not going to ruin that. The young boy would tell me that eating healthy was good. I bowed my head in shame. I still didn’t eat the salad.
I looked up while every one else was speaking and now the rainbow had gotten bigger, almost like a smile.
And then the crowd would look up again and they would ooh and ahh and my friend and I took more pictures as we both noticed that the rainbow had indeed gotten bigger and now it looked like a cross.
And so…. The pope was there just a bit later, God was smiling at us all and I know my mom was there as well.