I saw the pope in Fatima this past spring. I wound up with a decent spot for Mass there, and couldnt help but watch the Holy Fathers face throughout the Mass and subsequent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The man was being renewed there. He was taking energy from the crowd and the universality of the Church, as so many there gathered were. And it was hard not to notice the motherly encouragement that was present. She said the Soviets wouldnt win. She reminded us sin and death are conquered by Christ. She, and the whole event, reminded him, I suspect, that he wasnt alone. Not that he didnt know it already, but at a time when all hell seemed to be breaking loseeven as evil had already long-established its presence in some of the greatest institutions of the Westmost notably the Church, it couldnt hurt, in this very special place where she had appeared to three young children. Three young children who still have a great deal to teach us about faith and prayer.
As a Catholic friend of mine in Lisbon beautifully and faithfully assessed both trips last night: the Holy Father’s visit was a huge success and I am not surprised. Not only because he has such a gentle, clear, brilliant way of exposing the Gospel message as something fascinating and totally simple and natural (as in: we were created by a loving God so the natural thing is to be attracted to Him and the truth the Son came to reveal . . . ) but also because Our Lady was quite clear here in Portugal that She was with him! We are living fascinating times and I am totally confident that after a needed purification we will witness a marvelous rebirth of a united Christianity.
As I pointed to earlier, he did not pass up the opportunity to talk about another priests love of Mary yesterday.
Theres a hermeneutics of continuity to Pope Benedict.
And there are other similarities between the two trips, too. Fatima didnt get the pre-trip gloom-and-doom and threats coverage the British trip did, but both Portugal and the United Kingdom both wound up warmly welcoming the Holy Father, despite all kinds of crazy secular things going on there.