Reminiscing The 2019 Papal Visit
At the Papal Nunciature. November 23.
It was a rainy afternoon but that did not deter us from welcoming his Eminence. The moment he arrived, everybody cheered “Viva Papa Francesco” while waving the flags of Vatican and Japan. The experience was surreal. We felt God’s blessings right away. We were stunned and had goosebumps.
When the Pope stepped out of his car, he first approached our group then waved and smiled at my son、Perri. My husband broke into tears as a special toll was taken from his heart. His parents passed away just three months apart this year. He said, “I was just cheering ‘Viva il Papa’ but my voice started to break and tears just started falling down. I suddenly felt all the pains that we’ve been through but felt comforted the way Pope Francis looked at Perri. It’s as if Mom and Dad are telling me that they’re fine and will always watch us from above. It’s a reminder of their advice that it is our responsibility to bring the kids closer to God.”
It was also my daughter Phielle’s 9th birthday. Instead of us throwing a party, she chose to see the Pope. ” I’m more excited to meet Pope Francis for real. It’s gonna be the best birthday gift ever!”. My 5 years old son said, “Yehey! The Pope waved ‘Hi’ to me. He likes me!”
We have truly exceeded our thanksgiving meter that day as we felt God’s presence through Pope Francis. The whole family will be forever grateful for this rare opportunity to be near him. (Ronelle M. Endaya)
Youth Encounter in St. Mary’s Cathedral.
November 25, the day that all of us
have been waiting for. Full of energy and enthusiasm, nine hundred young people gathered to meet the Pope. Three, Leonardo, Miki, and Masako were given the opportunity to open up and voice out the concerns of the youth.
“We must all unite against this culture of bullying and join in saying: “No! No to bullying!” Pope Francis responded to Leonardo, who shared his experience of being bullied and discriminated as son of Filipino immigrants. The Pope also encouraged all not be afraid, like Jesus. A stranger, a migrant, someone who was “different,” he knew what it was like to be despised and rejected, Pope Francis told each one of us, to be brave, to encourage, lift up all who are looking for a helping hand.
The second one, Miki, asked how young people can make space for God in a society that is frenetic and focused on being competitive and productive. Especially in Japan, a lot of people have been focusing on earning money, on being highly developed on the “outside”, but lacking real life and vitality. “How many people throughout our world are materially rich, but live as slaves to unparalleled loneliness because of the inability to celebrate life with others,” Pope Francis remarked. Mother Teresa, as an example, who worked among the poorest of the poor, once said: “Loneliness and the feeling of being unloved is the most terrible form of poverty.” This was a reminder for all of us that the worst kind of poverty we could face is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. Combating spiritual poverty, the Youth needs to recognize that the most important thing is not what we have or can acquire, but with whom we can share it.
The third, Masako spoke about her experience as a student and a teacher. She asked how young people can be helped to discover their innate goodness and worth. “We cannot look at ourselves in the mirror,” Pope Francis asked all of us to extend a hand, go out of ourselves towards others, especially to those with great sufferings, seeking refuge, and to regard them as brothers and sisters. Lastly, seeing the cultural and religious diversity of young people living in Japan today, Pope Francis highlighted a beautiful message, “Japan needs you, the world needs you ,to be alert, not sleeping; it needs you to be generous, cheerful, and enthusiastic, capable of making home for everyone. I pray that you will be able to forget the mirror and look into the eyes of others.”( Crystal Eileen)
Mass in Tokyo Dome.
November 25. A Symbol of Peace and Life. Everybody was praying hard to get a ticket for the Papal Mass in Tokyo Dome. When the day came, we were amazed to see the Dome packed with people who wanted to see the Pope in person. More than 50,000 people came - babies, young and old, families, people in wheelchairs and with canes, people with disabilities, Japanese and foreigners, diplomats, religious men and women, representatives from different religions, priests, bishops, cardinals, etc. We came together to celebrate the “Mass for the Gift of Human Life.”
While we were waiting for the Eucharistic celebration to start, we were led in the singing of the theme song of the Apostolic Visit of His Holiness, entitled “Protect All Life.” It’s a powerful song that touches the heart. This was followed by a silent procession of the “Flame of Hope” in a lantern that toured various sites on a journey that started in Nagasaki. This flame was a symbol to promote peace and hope without nuclear weapons. Afterwards was the procession of the clergy wearing their vestment with a symbolic logo of the light of the Cross to protect all life.
We began the celebration with, “A Prayer for Our Earth” from the Encyclical Letter, “Laudato Si” of Pope Francis. This prayer reminds us that we are “united with every creature in this universe.”
After a long wait, the whole crowd cheered and waved with little flags when the Pope appeared in his Popemobil. He waved to everybody with his smiling face, kissed and hugged babies with great joy. It was a very stirring scene to witness the crowd overjoyed shouting, “Papa Francesco!” while he moved round with the theme song playing. It was very moving, a symbol of joy and grace!
The Pope began the Eucharistic celebration with a solemn procession. The mass was in different languages; Latin, English, Spanish and Japanese. The readings, songs, and prayer of the faithful were also read and sung in different languages. The participation of the faithful community was amazing…very prayerful. I was happy to see the number of parishioners from St. Ignatius church who participated; from the readers to the English choir! Kudos.
A powerful symbolic homily of Pope Francis called every Christian community to choose our priorities in life: to embrace the meaning of our life and existence; to protect all life…All creatures! (Sr. Abby Avelino, M.M.)
With the Media.
During Pope Francis’s visit, I was working as an interpreter for the Italian national TV company: RAI TV. Actually, the preparations already started a week before the actual visit. The schedule was so tight, from early morning till the late at night, however my heart was always excited and full of joy.
One of cameraman was a deacon in his parish in Rome, one journalist was always cherishing prayer. so that even when we were all exhausted physically, we could share ‘Faith and Prayer‘ with each other whenever we had time. Because of their spirituality and presence, I could feel God closer in my heart. I was full of happiness and peace as if God was holding my hand all the time. We were always saying “to unite in prayer“ so that God would lead us towards the Light. When I heard this, I remembered one ... ‘ Per Aspera ad Astra ‘ , which means ‘ through the difficulties to the Star ‘. Even when I was in such tight schedule, everyday, I strongly believed that God would take me in His Light where there was Joy and Peace.
Finally, my experience was concluded by a private greeting to the Pope before his departure. When I was in front of him and he gave me his hands I was not nervous at all but full of joy. I felt so much the “Love of God” through him. Indeed, God gave me such a beautiful and unforgettable Gift which I will cherish in my heart throughout my spiritual journey. (Masako E. Sakaguchi)
Live Streaming in St. Ignatius.
My little group and I, composed of members of the Rosary Prayer Group I lead at the Franciscan Chapel Center were unable to get tickets to Tokyo Dome. Fortunately, one member informed me that there was to be a live streaming at St. Ignatius. We were so grateful! We met early, saved seats, prayed the rosary and were ready for the live streaming. At the church they had us practice the Entrance Hymn, so we were familiar with it when it came on. The screen near the altar was large and afforded a good view from many angles of the church, which was packed with people filled with joy! Then the live streaming started, and applause erupted with the Pope mobile and the Pope's grand entrance into the stadium. Another wonderful moment was when the Pope consecrated the host, and it was announced in the church that we would be offered the Eucharist immediately following the Mass too! So, we all felt like we were there with everyone in Tokyo Dome, and the atmosphere in St. Ignatius Church was electric.
I wanted to be sure that someone thank the folks at St. Ignatius who were there ministering to us, because I feel they may have turned down a chance to attend the Mass in Tokyo Dome to do so. It was a great act of selfless love! Thanks to all of you from St. Ignatius! Those of us who could not get tickets and did not want to watch it alone were truly blessed by this experience. For me personally, it was wonderful and while at first I was a bit disappointed in not getting a ticket, now I do not feel that way at all. Perhaps this was even better for me. Muchas gracias, as Pope Francis would say! (Susan)
Unfortunate turned to grace.
While many people got excited to go to the Tokyo Dome and had special opportunities to see Pope Francis, there were people who were less fortunate. I was one of them. However, what seemed unfortunate had turned into grace because I received much love and kindness, many prayers from others. What impressed me most was my Godmother’s unconditional love. She tried to offer her ticket to me though I declined. Upon learning that she was not allowed to do so, she sent me a heart-warming gift and letter, saying “God may be preparing more blessings to give you.”
On the day of the Papal Mass, I had a blessed time at St. Ignatius, watching Live Streaming and receiving the Holy Eucharist. I thought it over how to accept the fact that I could not see Pope Francis face to face. And now I have realized that seeing a real pope was not very important, but listening with all my heart to his messages released from Japan was most important for me. I hope we may bear fruits from the seeds Pope Francis sowed in Japan so that we can be peacemakers. (Yuko Kosugi)