The pope is gone and now the real work begins

AND NOW, Philly, the real work begins.

Pope Francis came, he captured the hearts of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and he left.

Believer or nonbeliever, we done good, Philly.

Now let's not spend too much time patting ourselves on the back or pouting about stuff that could have gone better - like hellacious security lines - and get to work.

And I'm not just talking about rebuilding a church rocked by a sex scandal, church and school closings and an arrogance that still lingers, though I wish them well.

See, here's the thing about Pope Francis' visit. I never viewed it so much about a man as much as about a message - inadequate and contradictory as it is at times.

A message of compassion and common good and faith - not so much in one religion or another, but in each other and more importantly in our obligation to do better by one another.

That was part of my frustration in August when I wrote about how much more attention we were giving the papal visit than issues that affect Philadelphians every single day in this city, specifically the relentless violence.

The bloodshed, by the way, didn't take a break while the pope was here.

Imagine if we applied the same time, energy and resources as we do to weekend events to things that affect our daily lives.

Imagine if we didn't let our papal afterglow fade without heeding the six most important words spoken by the pope in Philadelphia - "What are you going to do?"

I loved that Pope Francis recalled Pope Leo XXII's words to St. Katharine Drexel - a Philadelphia native canonized in 2000. I loved that in his homily at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul, he put it on us.

Not because it's a perfect sound bite - though it is - but because it's not on a cute old man in white to save us, it's not on a flawed church or an imperfect religion to lead us.

It is on us to do right by us. To do better for us.

The good news is that there are many among us who are doing their part to make this happen - but there needs to be more.

In the week leading up to Pope Francis' visit, I wrote about the Revs. William Murphy and Joseph Devlin and Sister Ann Raymond Welte at a new ministry in an old bar in Kensington. I wrote about a revolving group of believers who walk those streets at the crack of dawn every Saturday to offer Pop-Tarts and prayers to some of this city's most broken. On the day that Pope Francis spoke to Congress and called on the world to care for the vulnerable, former addict Anna Batten was on her knees washing the feet of addicts at Harrowgate Park.

Not only because she is a believer, but because she is committed to doing something.

Regardless of your beliefs or your faith, whether you were angry at all the energy and resources that went into the pope's visit or the lockdown the city was put into, it was hard not to be touched by the joy on the faces of so many visitors to our city.

At Independence Hall, I watched sisters Stacey Rodenkirk and Jamie Sebring get emotional while listening to Pope Francis speak. When I asked them why, they said that with all the divisiveness in the country they were taken by a man who spoke of unity. And I'd be lying if I said, lapsed Catholic that I am, that I too wasn't touched by a pope who speaks for the voiceless, who - finally - addressed abuse victims and shook hands with inmates.

"He's just so real," Sebring said, tears in her eyes.

Now it's time for us to get real, Philly.

In his closing remarks, Pope Francis urged:

"Do not let your enthusiasm . . . for the broader family of society run dry . . ."


Phone: 215-854-5943

" @NotesFromHel

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