If you received news that Pope Francis was going to visit your home, would your preparations include some vacuuming and light dusting? In my house, it might also include some fresh paint in the living room and an industrial carpet cleaner!
So what should our spiritual preparations look like as we count down to the Holy Father's visit to the U.S.? It's great to envision Pope Francis enjoying a cheese steak in Philly, or looping around DC's beltway in the pope mobile, or smiling as the faithful snap "selfies" in Times Square. But what else might we do to make September's Apostolic Visit as grace-filled as possible?
Here are a couple suggestions, following the lead of Francis himself:
- Embrace the "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation". Now that Papa Francesco has claimed September 1st as an annual day of prayer for all of creation, isn't it time to explore what "going green" and following Christ might have in common? In Laudato Si', Holy Father Francis writes that "the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she 'groans in travail' (Rom 8:22)" (n. 2).
- Sign the petition to support the Pope's call for a human ecology. Contrary to the impression given by those who want to drive a wedge of discontinuity between the Pope and his predecessors, the Holy Father's new encyclical explicitly builds upon the foundation laid by St. John XXIII, Bl. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Using John Paul's luminous phrase, "human ecology", Francis quotes Benedict's insight that "the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence" (LS, n. 6). The myth of limitless human freedom has damaged both the natural and the social environments; concerted action on many different fronts can alone counteract such destruction.
- Keep praying for the World Meeting of Families and the October Synod on the Family. Again quoting St. John Paul II, Pope Francis writes that "I would stress the great importance of the family, which is 'the place in which life--the gift of God--can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed'...In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity" (LS, n. 213). Let us pray that we might help create a world in which mercy and truth walk hand-in-hand, and the authentic human needs of children might be respected and protected.
- Promote the papal "Welcome Day" initiative at your parish. Through the myUSCCB.org platform, parishes can now subscribe for a one-year free membership, which will include amazing resources for use during and after the Pope's visit. If your parish does not yet have a membership, simply go to www.myUSCCB.org; click on "sign up today" and select the Gold membership. Be sure to use coupon code "welcomeday" at checkout, and remember: People love Pope Francis, so let's look for ways to facilitate a deeper engagement with his message!
- Finally, embrace the catchy motto for the Apostolic Visit, and share the logo below with friends and family: