Three Cities, Three “Spheres”

The Pope will visit Washington, Philadelphia and New York. Can Americans renew the “all-encompassing Christian life”?

Pope Francis Visits the US

Pope Francis Visits the US

Three cities in the United States will receive Pope Francis during his first visit here as Pope; for whatever reasons the Holy Father chose them, they are in some sense emblematic of three “spheres” of human society in which the Church has a key role to play.

The cities are Washington, DC, the seat of political power in the United States, and, by extension, in the world; New York, where the diverse peoples of all the world, their hopes and concerns, are represented at the United Nations, where Francis will deliver an address; and Philadelphia, site of this year’s World Meeting of Families, which will represent not only the “family” as an entity, but also the specifically Catholic understanding of it.

So it is the government, the world, and the Church and family that Francis will come to speak to, and speak of… and he comes at a time that could hardly be more significant in the lives of all these spheres.

The contemporary American culture into which Pope Francis will arrive is not foreign to him; he has seen the rocky path along which Western social mores and attitudes have traveled already, and Americans are even laggards behind our European counterparts in many ways. But the US is also a trendsetter like no other country, a driving force in the world, for good or for ill, and it is now in the grip of a profound crisis of identity, of understanding of itself: we seem to no longer understand what a family is, or what biology means, or where spiritual meaning — if it even exists — is to be found.

Pope Francis arrives at a time when the US Supreme Court’s June “same-sex marriage” ruling is still sending shock waves throughout the Church and all levels of society; many see it as a profound governmental betrayal. Politically, we have come unmoored: as the US bishops recently observed, “In today’s environment, Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and few candidates fully share our comprehensive commitment to human life and dignity.”

Francis also arrives in the wake of the release of his much-awaited (with eagerness in some quarters, skepticism in others) encyclical Laudato Si’ on man’s stewardship of the environment — and the human family — a stewardship, he says, that the Creator has given to the whole world. But even the most faithful of Catholics do not agree on all of the implications of this granting of stewardship. And Francis comes to a people who, in great numbers, have a question in their hearts: What does it mean to be a Christian in these times?

Christians are still attending church, still marrying and having children, still burying their dead with the consolation of the Gospel. And yet, in our daily lives, we are overwhelmed by the Internet, by the media and by the government. Surveys tell us we are still among the most religious peoples on the planet, yet the percentage of Christians — including Catholics — who no longer attend church services continues to swell. Do religious rites bring us closer to the Transcendent? Is the Eucharist a “meal,” or is it the beating Heart of the universe? Are we still the people who, as Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, host of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, put it, “believed that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and other sacraments, in the Scriptures, in the saints, and in the Church’s historic doctrines, offered an authentic, all-encompassing Christian way of life sufficient to sanctify human existence?”

Pope Francis comes to us with the timing of the Holy Spirit: at the moment we most need him. After the commentators and the pundits have had their say, after the verdicts on the “success” of his visit are all in, we would do well to listen again to whatever Francis has to say to us Americans on how we may renew this “all-encompassing Christian life” that each individual, each family, each government, needs so much.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Arrival in Washington, D.C.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Visit to New York

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Visit to Philadelphia


Pope Francis Visits Washington, D.C.

Pope Francis met with US President Obama in Rome on March 27, 2014

Pope Francis met with US President Obama in Rome on March 27, 2014

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

4 p.m. l Pope Francis arrives in D.C. at Joint Base Andrews

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

9:15 a.m l White House Welcoming Ceremony and personal meeting with President Barack Obama

11:30 a.m l Midday Prayer with U.S. bishops at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral in D.C.

St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

St. Matthew’s Cathedral
in Washington, D.C.

4:15 p.m l Junipero Serra Canonization Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Thursday, September 24, 2015

9:20 a.m l Speech to the Senate and House of Representatives (Joint Session of Congress)

11:15 a.m l Visit to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in D.C. and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.

4 p.m. l Departure for New York from Joint Base Andrews (D.C.)

5 p.m. l Arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York)

6:45 p.m. l Evening Prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (New York)

Pope Francis Visits New York

Friday, September 25, 2015

The headquarters of the UN in New York with the flags of the world’s nations

UN Headquarters in New York

8:30 a.m. l United Nations General Assembly

11:30 a.m. l Multi-denominational service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center

4 p.m. l Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem

6 p.m. l Madison Square Garden Mass

Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center, New York

Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center

Pope Francis Visits Philadelphia

Saturday, September 26, 2015

8:40 a.m. l Departure for Philadelphia from John F. Kennedy International Airport

9:30 a.m. l Arrival at Philadelphia International Airport

10:30 a.m. l Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul

Cathedral Basilica of  Sts. Peter and Paul

Cathedral Basilica of
Sts. Peter and Paul

4:45 p.m. l Visit to Independence Mall

7:30 p.m. l Visit to Festival of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Prayer Vigil with World Meeting of Families

Sunday, September 27, 2015

9:15 a.m. l Papal meeting with bishops at St. Martin’s Chapel, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary

11 a.m. l Visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility

The Pope will visit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility

The Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility

4 p.m. l Papal Mass for World Meeting of Families

7 p.m. l Visit with organizers, volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families at Atlantic Aviation

8 p.m. l Departure for Rome

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