Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI's Mass at Nationals Park

What's Happening Today: Thursday, April 17
10:00 a.m. - Mass at Nationals Park
NOTE: This post will be updated as more information becomes available on this topic.

The Pope will celebrate Mass at the new Nationals Park in Washington. This will be the first non-baseball event in the park, which opened March 31.

  • 6:00 a.m. - Gates open; pre-Mass program begins
  • 6:30 a.m. - Confessionals open
  • 8:30 a.m. - The procession of clergy begins
  • 9:30 a.m. - The Pope arrives at the stadium
  • 9:35 a.m. - The Pope travels around the track inside the stadium in the popemobile
  • 10:00 a.m. - Mass begins
  • 12:00 noon - Mass ends; concession stands open
  • 2:00 p.m. - All concession stands close

Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Washington Nationals Park Mass, via the USCCB:

... In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle's urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit's gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ.

The readings of today's Mass invite us to consider the growth of the Church in America as one chapter in the greater story of the Church's expansion following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In those readings we see the inseparable link between the risen Lord, the gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and the mystery of the Church. Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rev 21:14) as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit's manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim "the great works of God" and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit.

I pray, then, that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God's Kingdom. ...


  • Nats' New Cathedral to Baseball Prepares for Pontiff, by Daniel LeDuc and Mary Beth Sheridan. Washington Post April 15, 2008 - on the preparations:
    The transformation of Nationals Park into an open-air church for a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI began [Monday], with workers installing hundreds of thousands of square feet of flooring over the Kentucky bluegrass outfield. ...
  • Nationals Park Fills With Thousands of Pope Fans, by Petula Dvorak, Jacqui Salmon and Michael Ruane. Washington Post:
    Thousands of people converged on the stadium before daylight today, a crowd as frenetic and giddy as the one assembled for the stadium's opening three weeks ago.

    By 6 a.m., long lines were already building at the entrance as hundreds of people poured out of the Metro station and through tight security. There were 25 metal detectors beeping and chirping, as bags were searched and metal-detecting wands were passed over people's bodies.

    The Metro disgorged streams of worshipers, many wearing commemorative black hats that read "Christ Our Hope" or carried the colors of their Catholic school. There were priests and nuns in their various vestments. Vendors were selling papal flags, hats and bumper stickers. There were people with tickets and those without, including one man whose written plea was held aloft on a sign: "Need one miracle."

    More than 46,000 people are expected at today's service, requiring 300 Ushers and 300 Eucharistic ministers to serve communion. The pope will be accompanied by 14 cardinals, 250 bishops and 1,300 priests.

  • The Nationals Park Mass: Ongoing Coverage and Commentary @ The New Liturgical Movement, by Gregor Kollmorgen:
    I would like to repeat Shawn's call for expectation management, especially since from what we have heard so far, and in comparison to yesterday's outstanding Vespers liturgy, at today's Mass there are bound to be elements which, for reasons extensively discussed in the last weeks, may seem disappointing from a reform-of-the-reform perspective. The NLM, however, will as always focus on those elements which can be understood as helping push forward one or another aspect of Benedict's programme for liturgical reform in continuity. I would encourage commenters to do likewise, but in any case, and as ever, to "criticize principles, not people; be discriminating, not nitpicking; be academic, not acerbic; be principled, not polemical" ...
  • Politicization of the Eucharist? - Nancy Pelosi and John kerry, two of the nations' most notorious, obstinately-defiant "pro-choice Catholics" receive communion at the Nationals Mass. As Jay Anderson (Pro Ecclesia) remarks:
    I am particularly unconcerned about whether these politicians receiving Communion during a Papal Mass is a "public relations coup of the highest order for the Democrat Party". Who cares which party is benefited by such things? Partisan politics is completely irrelevant in such a matter. ...

    I'm more concerned about whether public reception of Communion by those who publicly dissent from Church teaching provides an occasion for scandal to the faithful, and creates the impression that the Church's teachings are "optional" - that, as one commenter at InsideCatholic puts it, "one can [publicly] dissent from the Magisterium teaching on abortion and other issues, and still remain in good standing with the Church."

Benedict celebrates mass at Nationals Park, Washington
Source: Catholic Herald [UK]
  • "I guess you had to be there" - Wheat and Weeds has an excellent account of her experiences:
    What an uplifting morning. We Christians like to talk about re-claiming the world for Christ, but there's nothing like a Papal Mass in an unexpected place for making you feel such a thing is possible. If you've never been, there's an infectious spirit in the crowd that begins even before you enter the venue. It's in the subways as you approach: the smiles of recognition among the folks mass-bound (the crucifixes or Benedict shirts & buttons give it away); the amazed looks from regular commuters who feel themselves invaded by people who smile, people who thank the transit police for their assistance, people who yield their seats to the handicapped, people who seem happy. It's in the stadium, where you run into your friends everywhere; and there's a huge tent where 50-some priests are hearing confession after confession for the three hours before Mass begins; and all these beautiful young people are around reminding you that the Church is young, as Cardinal Ratzinger told us at JPG's funeral; and there are scads of young priests of course; and nuns, beautiful nuns, nuns in real habits -- blue nuns, white nuns, brown nuns, red nuns, everywhere young nuns with the most radiant smiles you've ever seen. Take one look at a nun and you know immediately whether she's of the sour "spirit of Vatican II" variety or if she's "got it" --and the nuns at the papal masses all "got it." Audacity of hope? Got it right here, pal, everywhere you look, at least for these few hours.
    and the music -- about which there have been a considerable amount of complaints:
    However, I'd ask people to bear in mind that some things necessary for a stadium mass may not come across on tv, where close-ups give a false appearance of intimacy. I've read at papal events, and the echo and re-verb are so bad you simply have to speak very slowly and dramatically in order to be understood; and there absolutely must be a cantor directing people or all the parts of the mass will descend into canon form because the sound of the first note hits different parts of the stadium at different times. Some folks are saying the mass was too self-consciously "diverse." Perhaps. Our chancery office and the USCCB staff certainly suffer from diversity disease. On the other hand, the Archdiocese of Washington is majority Hispanic now, and Washington, DC, the host city, is majority black. Anyway, I don't want to get into the liturgical questions right now. I'll simply say that Mr. W. is a traditionalist with a capital "T," and he wasn't offended (not to say thrilled, but thought on the whole it turned out better than he might have expected). However it played on television, in the pews, we were moved by and attentive to the mass, and there was a definite rapport between the crowd and the Holy Father.
  • The Papal Mass in DC: A pictoral journey", by Morning's Minion @ Vox Nova. A great selection of on-the-ground photos.
  • Pope leaves 46,000 happy (and sunburned!) Catholics, by Thomas Peters American Papist April 18, 2008.