What a gift it has been to have our Holy Father with us these last three days, and there are still two more to go!
The effect Pope Francis has had on this country has been pretty astounding so far, do you agree? Were we all prepared for him to be this popular?
It is quite out of the ordinary for Catholicism, as of late the subject of so much derision in the public square, to be publicly lauded and celebrated as it has been these last few days. I think the coined termed for this is "The Francis Effect."
Below are the highlights of today, all images taken from USCCB live streaming.
FIRST STOP: THE UNITED NATIONS
After being the first-ever Pope to speak at at Joint Session of Congress yesterday, today Pope Francis continued his apostolic visit to New York City with a visit to the United Nations. This is the 5th time a Pope has addressed the international assembly as the Vatican head of State.
His address to the international assembly was pretty powerful by all accounts, finding common ground with all present to defend his premise that the preservation of the environment is a preservation of humanity, each individual of whom is the design of a loving creator.
Below are a few poignant excerpts from his speech:
First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good.
"To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc."
"At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and all other civil rights."
Read the full Address of the Holy Father to the United Nations (it was really great!).
SECOND STOP: 9/11 MEMORIAL
Next Pope Francis stopped to pray at the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero, and to meet with those directly affected by the national tragedy. He was accompanied by Cardinal Dolan and NYC politicians.
Here is a portion of his prayer that was especially touching:
"God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world: peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the earth. Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred, and who justify killing in the name of religion."
Read the complete Prayer of Pope Francis at the Ground Zero Memorial.
Continuing his prayer at the national memorial, Pope Francis joined an ecumenical prayer service gathered to pray for and give witness to the cause of peace after this tragedy of senseless violence.
It was a special moment for people of all faiths to gather in unity, with one voice, to reject violence and embrace good will for their fellow man. It's hard to believe that it's been fourteen years since September 11th.
THIRD STOP: OUR LADY QUEEN OF ANGELS IN HARLEM
Next Pope Francis greeted rows of screaming students before heading to his next stop to visit kids at a Catholic school in Harlem.
The excited children were chanting over and over, "Holy, Father, we, love, you!, and sang, "Oh when the Pope, goes marching in, O when the Pope goes marching in . . . " as he entered the building.
There were some really sweet moments here as Pope Francis entered the classroom and interacted with the children.
Everyone in the room paused to pray the Hail Mary with the Pope, what a beautiful moment to ask for the intercession of Our Lady!
Next the Holy Father entered the auditorium to speak with the immigrant communities of Archdiocese of New York who have benefited from the work of Catholic Charities.
The touching moment here was when Pope Francis gave everyone a homework assignment: "Don't forget to pray for me, that I may share with many people the joy of Jesus."
Before leaving the Holy Father led the room in reciting the Lord's Prayer before giving his blessing and heading to his next stop.
FOURTH STOP: PUBLIC PARADE AT CENTRAL PARK
Pope Francis waves goodbye to the kids as he heads to over to hop in the Popemobile where bigger crowds were waiting.
The massive gathering at the Central Park loop shouted with joy as the Holy Father waved and smiled. Surely it must be the Holy Spirit sustaining his energy through all this busyness and excitement!
FIFTH STOP: HOLY MASS AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
Pope Francis' final event for the day was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated at Madison Square Garden. Approximately 20,000 people gathered to join him in the celebration of the source and summit of the Catholic Faith.
The altar and sanctuary was simply yet beautifully adorned. A San Damiano inspired crucifix was suspended from the ceiling, and a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was placed next to the altar.
Pope Francis processed into the arena along with his brother bishops accompanied by glorious, heavenly music.
He incensed the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, as Mass began.
The Mass was solemn and reverent, with a musical accompaniment fitting for the worship of the King of Kings, which is not easy to accomplish at this kind of venue with this kind of crowd.
Read the full text of Pope Francis' Homily at Madison Square Garden.
A heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone involved in making this nationally and internationally televised Papal Mass a truly beautiful witness to the truth, beauty, and timelessness of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.