Monday, April 21, 2008
My favorite part of Pope Benedict's pilgrimage to the U.S. was his visit with the group of young people with disabilities, which I was lucky enough to watch live on Saturday afternoon. The visual contrast between this visit and the Mass at St. Patrick's earlier that morning was quite something. At St. Pat's, I was struck by how neat and orderly everything looked when the camera panned the whole crowd. The order was accentuated by the fact that groups of men and women from different orders were all sitting together, so the high overhead shots showed neat, orderly, patterns of groups of people in identical habits. Everything was beautifully choreographed, and from what I saw, there were no flaws in the execution of any part of the ceremony.
In the equally ornate room in which the Pope visited with the young people with disabilities and their parents, in contrast, the high overhead shots showed chaos -- clumps of people clustered around wheelchairs, papers (presumably programs) strewn all over the floor. You could just sense that this was a room in which a group of parents had been fighting a losing battle in keeping their high-spirited kids in check for the (probably) hours they had to be there before the Pope's arrival.
When Pope Benedict plunged into the group to shake hands, share kisses and blessings, there was just as much chaos and disorder, but so, so, much love and tenderness. The kids looked mostly nonchalant, but pleased, but the parents were just radiant. I'm sure every one of those kids was coached on proper Papal etiquette, yet I distinctly saw one young fellow with Down Syndrome belt out "Hi, Pope!" when Benedict came close. And the Pope was beaming, too, obviously enjoying himself. His remarks (included below) were almost incidental to the visual manifestation of the Pope and these beautiful young people showing us how "our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does."
"God Has Blessed You With Life"
YONKERS, New York, APRIL 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday in a meeting with young people with disabilities.
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Your Eminence, Bishop Walsh, Dear Friends,
I am very happy to have this opportunity to spend a brief moment with you. I thank Cardinal Egan for his welcome and especially thank your representatives for their kind words and for the gift of the drawing. Know that it is a special joy for me to be with you. Please give my greetings to your parents and family members, and your teachers and caregivers.
God has blessed you with life, and with differing talents and gifts. Through these you are able to serve him and society in various ways. While some people’s contributions seem great and others’ more modest, the witness value of our efforts is always a sign of hope for everyone.
Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured. Yet our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does. God’s unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life. Through his Cross, Jesus in fact draws us into his saving love (cf. Jn 12:32) and in so doing shows us the way ahead -- the way of hope which transfigures us all, so that we too, become bearers of that hope and charity for others.
Dear friends, I encourage you all to pray every day for our world. There are so many intentions and people you can pray for, including those who have yet to come to know Jesus. And please do continue to pray for me. As you know I have just had another birthday. Time passes!
Thank you all again, including the Cathedral of Saint Patrick Young Singers and the members of the Archdiocesan Deaf Choir. As a sign of strength and peace and with great affection in our Lord, I impart to you and your families, teachers and caregivers my Apostolic Blessing.
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