By Tanya Connor
Pope Francis hasn’t arrived in the United States yet, but he’s already showing up on vacation with local families.
He’s doing so as “Flat Francis” – a picture of him – thanks in part to people from St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northborough.
On a more serious note, the parish is also posting news about the Pope and his opposition to the death penalty. And prayer cards for his visit are to be distributed at Masses.
At another parish, the pastor wrote his own prayer for the papal visit – Sept. 22-27 – and printed it in the Sunday bulletin.
Still another priest plans to hold discussions about the Pope’s address to Congress and his messages about the environment.
“We’re very exited about the papal visit,” said Father James A. Houston, pastor of St. Rose of Lima. He said about 20 parishioners are going to see the Pope in September and others are being introduced to him in other ways.
“Once we heard about the visit and his constant call to be pro-life and end capital punishment,” Father Houston said, they dedicated a bulletin board in the church’s gathering area to news about him and about the death penalty.
Father Houston and faith formation director Susan McGoldrick also told about a poster they displayed with “fun facts about the pope,” such as his favorite meal.
Mrs. McGoldrick said another project came from Catholic Extension, a fundraising organization which supports poor mission dioceses in the United States. She said pastoral assistant Ernie Rivard brought her a Flat Francis cutout from the website www.catholicextension.org.
The website asks for help to show the Pope “the face of American Catholicism” and invites people to submit their photos taken with the cutout. It says they will post the photos on their website and social media channels and send the Pope a collage of all the photos.
Mrs. McGoldrick said she made copies of Flat Francis and distributed them at vacation Bible school with instructions for the children to take him when they go on vacation and e-mail her photos, which she displays on parish bulletin boards.
“The fact that this Flat Francis has caught on with our children translates that the celebration of joy about Pope Francis’ leadership has gotten into our families,” Father Houston said. He said they pray for his visit to be safe and successful and that he ordered a prayer card to distribute at Masses.
“We’re so proud that he’s going to the White House … Congress … the United Nations,” he said. “As Catholic Americans we are rightfully proud of the Holy Father, the office of pope. He’s the most trusted person on the planet” and maybe, because of that, the only one who can negotiate peace.
“I think the trip is sort of an invitation to all Catholics to follow the example of the Pope as a humble servant and to draw closer to God,” he said.
A prayer for the papal visit asks that the Pope’s presence will bring people closer to God.
Father Robert A. Grattaroti, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Charlton, wrote it. He said that at his monthly priests’ support group the question was raised: “Are we in the parishes doing anything about the Pope’s coming?”
“I said, ‘What a great idea; I’m going to write a prayer,’” he said. “It’s in this week’s bulletin. And then I shared it with some of the guys in the prayer group.” One priest suggested sending it to The Catholic Free Press and the diocesan Office for Worship.
“We pray that his presence among us will bring us closer to you and produce an outpouring of your spirit upon us,” the prayer says, in part. Commenting on that, Father Grattaroti said, “I know of people who are going to church again because of him.”
Commenting on another part of the prayer he said, “a lot of people comprehend the Gospel of life and love,” but some focus more on one than the other.
“When they’re balanced you come to truth,” he said.
Speaking of the part of the prayer that says that God is with us in spite of evil, Father Grattaroti said, “We tend to think where there’s bad, there’s no presence of God.” He responds that one should look at the crucifixion.
“The night of his address to the Congress we’re going to rebroadcast it in our parish hall and have a discussion and refreshments,” Father Timothy M. Brewer, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Jefferson, said. The event, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24, is open to the public, he said. He said this can lead in to the parish’s focus for the coming academic year – the pope’s messages about caring for the environment – which he expects will be addressed during his visit.
Prayer for our Holy Father Pope Francis’ Visit
O Loving Lord, we ask You to bless in a special way our Holy Father Pope Francis, as we welcome him to our country.
Coming as Your vicar on Earth, we pledge him our Prayers, our Love and our Support. We pray that his presence among us will bring us closer to You and produce an outpouring of Your Spirit upon us.
We ask that we may more fully comprehend the Gospel of Life and Love which Your Son Jesus came to proclaim. In every age, in every place, in spite of the evil that may prevail, You have been and still are with us, leading us to the fullness of Your Beauty and Glory.
We also request that his presence may strengthen, heal, renew, inspire and enliven us in our common destiny as brothers and sisters in the human family.
We pray through Christ our Lord, AMEN
(Written by Father Robert A. Grattaroti)