Sunday, April 6, 2008

Msgr. William Belford: "Preparing spiritually for Pope Benedict XVI's visit"

Msgr. William Belford, chancellor of the archdiocese, is writing a series about spiritual preparations for the apostolic visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States (Catholic New York March 27, 2008):

Fortunately for people who work during the week, most of the Pope's time in New York will take place on the weekend. But no matter what you usually do, plan to see these events as they happen, or try to watch a rebroadcast.

The Pope's visit is more than a public spectacle or a diplomatic milestone. Think of this visit as a spiritual retreat for yourself-a time of special opportunity and divine grace when you try to separate yourself from ordinary duties to soak up spiritual messages and transformative reminders of who you are as a member of Jesus' Catholic Church.

All religious people need revivals, missions, retreats-big events that remind us of our identity and raise our expectations of ourselves. This visit can and will accomplish that for those who are ready. Open yourself and your family to be so blessed.

Parents who make this a priority and encourage their children to watch with them may accomplish more than they realize. Besides ordinary good experiences of Church, young people need leaders, challenges, invitations, glimpses of what they can be as followers of Jesus and helpers of his people. ...

The second major practice to encourage in these three weeks is prayer. Pray for all the parts of this visit to be even better and more powerful than we now expect. Pray that God will astonish us and leave us filled with new awe at what he can do. Pray that the events be memorable, the Pope's speeches be inspiring, his audiences be receptive and the media presentations reveal the beauty of our sacred liturgies and the personal goodness of the man.

Beautiful memorial cards, with an official prayer for this visit by Cardinal Egan and with a picture of Pope Benedict XVI, have been sent to all parishes and schools for distribution this week. ...

The third thing you might want to do in these next three weeks to help yourself and your friends welcome Pope Benedict, is to read (and discuss) something that he wrote.

You will know the man better and honor his coming by getting ready to learn from him. Remember: the Pope is coming to be heard, not just to be seen. To form your own impression and to respond to his message, go to the source; listen to him now in his writings.

We'll revisit Msgr. Belford's column next week as he tackles the Pope's second encyclical Spe Salvi.

Note: While I could not find the New York Archdiocese's Prayer Card online, Our Sunday Visitor offers a Papal Visit 2008 Prayer Card as well, free for downloading in .PDF format.