Monday, October 05, 2015

What We Saw in Philadelphia—Part III

Day 3 was a completely different experience, and it had its ups and downs. It was the first day that traffic in and our of Philadelphia completely locked down. Our bus was directed to the parking lot for Citizens Bank Park, and we too the Broad Street line in.


We were given orange hats with the Diocese of Boise logo on them so that we could see each other and stay together. That plan only works if people stick together, and it got blown out of the water almost immediately.

We arrived at the Walnut Station and were given quick instructions about where we were going (the check point on 20th). Unfortunately, they were not clear on routes from the station to the checkpoint. This turned out to be key for us, but oddly, it worked out for the best.

Gina and I trailed the group (along with our diocesan communications director and another deacon) to make sure no one got lost. One of our number, an older deacon and his wife, just couldn't keep up with the pace of the tour director and had to stop to rest as we climbed the stairs. We all got to the street, but while he needed to rest, the group was ready to go. Gina and I opted to stay behind with the couple to help them find their way.

Unfortunately, the entire group disappeared almost immediately, and I didn't see which direction they went. However, I did see a checkpoint ahead and assumed that was where they went. I found out too late that it was the wrong check point, but we were already in line.

We stood in line for about 90 minutes--dumped our fruit and water at the entrance, and made our way up to city hall.


The crowds were still fairly light at this point. We led our friends along the parade route, but at a certain point, John decided that he had gone far enough for the time. He said that they would catch up to us after he caught his breath. He actually meant to camp out right there instead, but he didn't want us to worry. As it turned out, this worked well. He and his wife were able to get a good spot for the papal parade, and they were close enough to the exit that we could pick them up on the way out.

At this point, Gina and I headed up the parkway to find the rest of our group. The route became more congested as we approached the basilica, where the Saturday liturgy with clergy and religious was taking place. We were watching the mass on the jumbotrons that were placed all over the parade route, and I was also following Tom McDonald's status updates.

As we were passing the cathedral, Mass was ending, and people were trying to get a good view of the doorway to see Pope Francis exit. For some reason, I found this very touching. These young men were scrambling up onto the statue to get a glimpse of the pope.


We had blocks to go still to get into the ticketed area, and we both needed to find a lavatory. There were few between Broad Street and this location, so we forged ahead. We didn't find any until we reached 20th, which was where we were supposed to meet our group on the way out.

We made our way up Ben Franklin Parkway and found scattered members of our groups. Via text, I was able to locate the leaders of the expedition, we made our way as close to the stage as we could without having seats.And then came the wait. We were able to hear a number of musicians do their sound checks—Matt Maher, Aretha Franklin (who apparently sounded a whole lot better in the afternoon than she did when she performed). But for the most part, we waited and watched.

I was able to find this magnificent homage to American planning—the Great Wall O'Port o' Potties,


Those who wanted good shots of the pope camped at the rail. Those of us who just enjoyed being in the presence of so many joy-filled Catholics and our leader sat back.



We were able to watch the other events from the many jumbotrons all  over the parkway.


Before the papal parade started, we decided to grab a cheesesteak. I saw these priests eating ice cream and watching the spectacle.



Finally, the music started. Frankly, Matt Maher didn't get nearly enough time. He only performed two songs.


We watched the performances on closed circuit. Here's our view of the stage from where we were.


We saw them move the popemobile up to the stage in the afternoon. Knowing that the exits would be clogged, we resolved to start leaving at 7:30 (long before the end of the festivities). We made our way down to 20th but were on the opposite side of where we needed to be. About that time, the pope began making his rounds. He had sneaked out of the basilica back to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, then around 7:00, he came back, mounted the popemobile, and started the parade. Since we didn't camp the rail, we were not likely to get good photos, but I managed to get a glimpse of the popemobile. You can see the front screen just to the right of the hands of the boy in blue.


And here just to the right of the girl.


I saw him float by with his cope flapping around his head. He was quickly moving from one side of the car to the other to make sure that he greeted everyone. I think he looks his most energetic at these moments. The addresses and the meetings with heads of state, quite frankly, seem to bore him. But when he gets a chance to engage with the people, he gets fired up.

UPDATE: I have to say that one of the remarkable things about both days was how good-natured people were. I heard not a single foul word, and I knew of no angry incidents. The only incident I know of was one that I sadly caused. As we were on our trek back to city hall, we took a path down around a public building and up a staircase. The stairs were marble and narrow, and just as we approached the top, a man and his wife stepped in front of us so that we were standing on these narrow steps. Several people walked in front of us, oblivious to us and our intentions. Finally, I reached across the path and said, "Excuse me, I need to get my wife off of these stairs." The young lady registered surprise, and then laughed it off. I tried to explain that the stairs were actually dangerous, but I think her thoughts were elsewhere, and she was by no means put out.

Gina and I headed back toward Broad Street to pick up our wayward deacon and his wife. We had been in contact with them and told them we'd come back and get them to the rail station. On the way, we saw this interesting light show on the dome of the basilica. It's difficult to make out, but basically, it was a loop of a single candle flame that separated into multiple flames.


We found our deacon and his wife, and we headed for the exit. John hadn't eaten since  the afternoon, so we stopped into a Wawa one block down from the Walnut station. There was an anti-Catholic group with a megaphone talking about how the pope couldn't save us, or the Immaculate Conception couldn't save us, or pedophile priests couldn't save us. I had to thoughts about this: first, they didn't know squat about Catholic theology, and second, their tone was so antithetical to everything else around them. While they were going off, and Catholic youth group trundled up the street and started dancing and singing in front of them. Score 1 for the Catholics.

And score 1 for this guy standing outside of the Wawa. He said he was 70 and he was dancing and praising God while all of this was going on around him. Gina insisted that I take his picture.


We got down to the rail station and made it back to AT&T Center. Surprisingly, we were the first back even though we didn't meet up with the main group. Everyone got back to the bus in one piece, and we were on our way home.

The last day would be the pinnacle of our experience.
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