If there’s one thing that I noticed from Pope Francis’s visit to the United States, it’s not the fact that he managed to make a politician cry (although my parents tell me that Congressman Bohner does that a lot) or what people wish he could’ve said. It’s that in spite of the hip issues (seriously Pope Francis, see a doctor about that please!) and the constant travelling and all of the events he attended, Pope Francis was able to do everything with joy. Well, most of the time.
When he was around politicians, there was always a serious air around Pope Francis. I know that he did keep a good face, but the looks he had whenever he was around the “officials” of our country and the world couldn’t compare to his joy whenever he was around children, grandparents, and the millions of people who were all gathered around every street corner in New York, Philadelphia, and DC to see him.
The joy that Pope Francis had affected everyone who was watching. People who didn’t see themselves as Catholic were seeing the beauty of the Church and the most cynical of journalists were singing Pope Francis’s phrases. I usually don’t watch CNN or Fox News, but even my usual skepticism towards those networks faded. The joy these journalists felt was real. And it wasn’t just feel good lip service for the sake of ratings. Reporters like Maria Shriver are being moved by his words. And how often do cable news networks show an entire Mass? I honestly can’t remember.
I didn’t expect Pope Francis to gaslight Congress or the UN about what’s going on in the world. Nor did I expect him to condemn the politicians. I was surprised to see news anchors such as Matt Lauer and Mo Rocca at the Masses in New York, but Bishop Robert Barron did work with NBC and Mo Rocca was present in Catholic events before. (Little known fact: He wrote the Wishbone episode that told the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.) What I got from seeing the diversity of people at the events is that Pope Francis has an effect on everyone.
Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were suddenly trending in Google and Twitter because Pope Francis mentioned them in his speech to the White House. Any hashtags relating to where the Pope was and what he was doing were trending on Twitter and Facebook. CNN had a hashtag #PopeIn3words. And most of those tweets in that hashtag show a genuine love for the bishop of Rome.
Mother Teresa said that “Peace begins with a smile.” While many Catholics were hoping for someone who would call the sinners out on their actions and plead them to repent, Pope Francis approached softly and was still able to make a difference. Even though America has gone back to its usual spin of moral relativism and political speculations, I still have hope that those who were impacted by Pope Francis’s visit will start to see a change in their own lives. Even if it’s something as small as just praying for him.