The Most Blessed of Adventures: Two Families Share Their Encounter With Pope Francis
Though it's been almost a month since Pope Francis came to our shores, his words and actions still resonate with the lot of us. While most families opted to hear his words in the comfort of their homes, others made plans to get a glimpse of him, even if just for a moment. Here, two families share their blessed encounters with Pope Francis, and how it shook their very core.
How Rowie Matti and her two daughters Bea and Celina were able to procure tickets to the youth encounter event at the University of Santo Tomas was nothing short of a miracle. The first ticket was a gift from Rowie's assistant, an active member of the church who was to help in the UST event, but was re-assigned to the mass in Luneta. Because there was nobody to accompany Celina, Rowie made calls to people who she knew were going, all the while praying that she could find two more tickets for her and Bea. She was finally able to get in touch with a friend who was going. Rowie recalls, “When I called her, she immediately told me that I can have her ticket. I didn't believe what I was hearing. She repeated: 'You can have my ticket.' She gave me instructions on where we will meet so that we can claim the ticket together. I had a ticket! We just need one more! Wow!”
“When I got the ticket from her a few hours before the activity, I asked her if she can get another ticket for Bea. She said: 'Pray. There might be a chance to get another ticket.' We again prayed! She called up a priest from UST. After an hour, we were told that the priest can give us another ticket for the event at UST. When I got to UST, the priest gave me five tickets. I was able to bring my sister and gave away three more tickets.”
Rowie says, “It was really miraculous how we were able to get those three tickets that we needed to see the Pope. I always tell my children to believe in the Lord and to pray. This is the only time that I was able to show them the power of prayers instantly. I couldn't have imagined a better way!”
Pope Francis arrived on Celina's birthday, and for this young lady, it was the most precious of gifts to be able to see him. She says, “The day before UST, I was already excited. I woke up at 10AM to catch the Pope's encounter in Tacloban. I fixed my things and packed for one of the best days of my life. I think I was too excited that I forgot to sleep. It was at 1AM that my family and I met up with the church group. We got to UST at 2AM and stood in line for about four hours before we could get in. Getting in was very difficult. People were pushing, the lines were moving slowly, and I was already very tired. The only thing keeping me going were prayers and the thought of seeing the Pope. It was already almost 7AM when we found a good spot.”
She continues, “At 9:30AM, the big screen showed a live telecast of the Pope nearing UST. Everyone started to run to the barricades, hoping he would pass by in his Popemobile. I waited for 15 minutes, until I saw the Pope. I suddenly did not feel tired and his smile just gave off peace, joy, and love. Seeing him for even five seconds about a meter away was the greatest moment ever.”
“The talk he gave touched my heart and hearing his response to the youth's speeches gave me hope that I can still change the world for the better. The last song was when I teared up. We sang and I brought out my rosary and swayed and felt so blessed. It was at that moment that I realized how lucky I am to be in that place.”
Celina continues, “I was awake for more than 24 hours and I was under the rain for the most part in UST, but all of that paid off when I saw the Pope, when I heard his wise words, and when I felt God in me.”
Because Bea didn't think she was going, she had made plans to go out with her friends the night before. Needless to say, she was feeling exhausted when they went to see the Pope. She recalls, “When we finally entered UST, I was so drained from the day before plus the waiting that I fell asleep sitting down among the crowds. I was so sleepy that I slept through the opening performances.”
“I woke up around an hour before the Pope arrived. I felt energized when the hosts announced that he was near. I jumped up and down and screamed with the crowds as he passed the audience. It was nothing short of amazing to see such an inspiring person, even if it was from afar. He was definitely charismatic. Everyone cheered as he spoke each sentence, and as he hugged the representatives of the youth. I will never forget the great feeling I got that day. Seeing him in person made staying up and fighting my tiredness worth it,” Bea says.
John-john Torres, dad of two, hoped that he and his family could catch Pope Francis on Quirino Avenue as he made his way back to the Papal Nunciature. Because the roads leading to the area were closed, his family walked around two kilometers from where they parked their vehicle.
He shares, “We walked in the rain, and found ourselves joining many others already gathered along the route. We waited for a couple of hours to see the Pope, and everyone there seemed ready to wait for even more. The energy around us was quite festive, and I thought it was strange how everyone there was like somehow a friend.”
“As soon as we saw the flashing lights of the Pope's oncoming motorcade, the excitement in the crowd soared! He was coming closer, in his wide-open Popemobile, wearing a very simple plastic poncho, exactly the same poncho as others on the street were wearing. What an inspiring sight, indeed! As the Pope drove by us, we were all lost in the moment: loudly cheering for Pope Francis and for all he has done, frantically waving at him for all that he stands for! It was an explosion of emotions! It was absolutely amazing!”
“When the Pope was already far out of sight, and the excitement in the area had receded, the crowd orderly broke up and we rejoined with family and friends. There was light banter amongst us as we started the long walk back to the car, under a light falling rain. It was then that my son, leaned his head on my chest, and with a dreamy smile on his face, he quietly said, 'Papa, it was like someone stepped on my heart.'”
“I hugged him tight, and thanked my God that my son was able to experience this, that the moment was not lost on this young 11-year-old old boy, and that it made an impression on his beautiful old soul. I pulled my wife close, to tell her what Tomás said to me. Our faces were soon wet with streams of joy, but it had nothing at all to do with the light rain that was still falling.”