It’s been an intense few days. The Pope arrived in Washington DC on Yom Kippur – the day of atonement. Yom Kippur is a very special and holy day for the Jewish community. There is a moment in the service (that lasts an entire day) where, in the middle of the deprivation of a fast (no food or water) and deep prayer, one states aloud: “I declare that I forgive everyone who has ever hurt me in the past.”
To get to this point yearly with the appropriate sincerity does not come easily. One does not simply show up. It requires almost a month of preparation – making lists of all those who have been or are important in one’s life, and writing cards. Getting to a point where one can have a civil conversation, send a picture, wish them well, and state that one is doing well enough. I don’t know that there is an equivalent in other faith traditions.
It is a month of trying one’s best to make peace.
The Pope arrives in the middle of the service. I feel like I should honor his “once in a lifetime” presence by being present at the ceremonial welcome. At the same time, I know, that this yearly conversation with G_d about being able enough to get along well enough with other people who have been placed in my life cannot be put aside. I have to accept personal responsibility for making relationships work even in really difficult situations.
So, I managed to get out 50 or so cards with pictures to people, and met my prayer obligations as a Jew. And I headed out to see the Pope on Saturday, at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. He was scheduled to arrive in the middle of the day at 12. It was the Shabbat after the holidays – also a holy day, but not a high holy day. A day for peace.
Coming in from outside Philly, the dogs with me, there was no traveling in the city by car, or bringing the dogs to the event with me. I decide to leave the dogs in the car with the windows rolled completely down and a bowl of water, in a comfortable shade for 4 hours, to try to see the Pope. Short of being with me, it was where the dogs wanted to be – they are free to jump out of the car if they need to, but they never do. The city was packed, with streets blockaded for the parade, and many people with expressions of affection and love for their faith had come from all over the country to camp out on the lawn for the big events (that required tickets), or to stand by the guardrails on one of the parade’s possible routes through the city.
As I moved through Independence Hall, I browsed the walls with their murals outlining the history of independence.
Arriving at the event, I managed with some difficulty to get in to hear a very moving reading of the Declaration of Independence by a Latina woman. When it came to the part about all the grievances, it was very artfully done, having African American and Latino men and women each come forward to read one of the grievances.
Many people were taking pictures of themselves with cardboard images of the Pope – I took a few for others, and then realized how much I needed the Pope for a very special peace – one with with police. I found an officer, and he agreed to stop for the picture.
There were some cards being prepared for display to the Pope, and I signed one.
And seized a last-minute opportunity for a picture of a young man with a great t-shirt in between 3 posters: Independence, Choosing Sides: Young Voices in the Revolution, and Find Your Park.