How to get a better view of the Pope (or, Lessons from a desperate Pope-abanger)

My dream in this papal visit is that of kissing the Holy Father’s ring, shaking his hands, and having a brief conversation with him with the following dialogue sequence:

Me (in tears): Blah blah

Pope Francis (amused smile): Blah blah

Me (in tears): Blah blah

Pope Francis (reassuring smile): Blah blah

And so, to make that dream come true in the concluding Mass, I have to aim at getting there on the first row, in the area where the Holy Father is most likely to linger and greet people.

I’m sure we share the same dream.

Perhaps yours has embellishments I can do without — hugging, Rosary-showing, selfie-ing. But we both have to remember certain things that I learned (the hard way) about waiting and getting at least a good view of the Pope:

1. Be early. Be very early.

Being at the venue four hours ahead of time won’t cut it. I arrived at the Manila Cathedral grounds at 6:45 am, and there were already hundreds packed around the building fronting the cathedral. And the Mass there was still at 11:30!

People already packed around the cathedral as early as 6 am!

2. Take an energy drink.

I took the popular, serpentine, yellow one. 😉 Paired with bread (carbohydrates for energy!), it’s quite effective. From Paco, I trekked to Intramuros, stood there for the waiting and the Mass, and hiked back to Paco eight hours later. I’m still alive.

3. Bring a hat.

This should cover your face from the sun — or the rain (which happened right after the Manila Cathedral Mass). The foldable type is better, since you can pocket it if you’re not using it anymore. Oh, and all types of umbrellas are prohibited.

4. Use long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

Your arms and legs will thank you for not subjecting them to sunburn, plant thorns, bugs, and other people’s sweat. To avoid heat, make sure your clothes are made of light materials, like cotton and polyester. Also guarantee yourself a seat by wearing pants that would not make you worry about sitting on the ground.

Sitting, waiting
Sitting, waiting

5. Use sneakers.

As the crowd thickened, I heard women shriek in pain as their sandal-clad feet were stepped on. Light rubber shoes are the best.

6. Use a transparent/translucent sling bag.

Backpacks and opaque sling bags are prohibited; they are always suspect for hidden weapons. Using a sling bag is convenient because it allows you to move both hands freely. Your two hands are most useful when you’ll have to cross barricades. (The police have this method of initially holding the crowds behind the barricades. But later on they would allow them to cross and get nearer the Pope’s route.)

AFP officers guarded the barricade, which they would soon abandon, lettomg people pour into Plaza Roma.
Air Force officers guarded the barricade, which they would soon abandon, letting people pour into Plaza Roma.

7. Bodily dump has to be dumped before going to the venue.

You know what I mean. 😉

8. Bring your Rosary.

You’ll have all the time to pray all the mysteries.

9. Minimize your movement.

Moving a lot will make you perspire easily. With comfortable clothes and minimized movement, you will survive without a fan (fortunately, the weather nowadays is quite cloudy and windy).

10. Know the exits.

Good luck and see you at Luneta! (Maybe.)


Please don’t pass around the Sacred Host!

The heartbreaking footnote to this otherwise euphoric papal visit is at least one instance of losing refinement and respect to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Sadder still, because it was instigated (or at least tolerated) by some Communion ministers.

Outside the Manila Cathedral, during Holy Communion of the Holy Father’s Mass with the clergy and the religious, at least two extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (a nun and a monk?) pushed into the crowd to distribute the Consecrated Host. While not entirely proper, this should be tolerable. But what happened next was appalling.

Some of the crowd — who were at least two meters away from the ministers — cried for Holy Communion. Two or three soon called out, “Pasa-pasa nalang! (Just pass Them [the Sacred Hosts] around!)”

At first the ministers did not hear them, or probably ignored it. But the people were beginning to be noisy. Some of crowd, fortunately, said, “Uy, hindi pwedeng pasa-pasa! Komunyon yan!

But the ministers were rather oblivious to the “debate.” Soon they DID pass around — from one grubby hand to another — the Sacred Hosts to the people who were asking for Communion. I saw one broken Host being handed on. Did the minister break It, or was It broken as It was being passed around? Worse, even the ciborium containing the Hosts was soon passed around!

Too distressed to bear the sight, I looked away. I was also unable to take better photos or videos.

About five minutes later, the crowd was satisfied, with the ministers still looking clueless about what they just did.

This utter irreverence to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament must not happen again. We wouldn’t want the Holy Father to be lifted and tossed and passed around like a plaything or some relief good; much less would we want the Lord of the Popes and the Universe to be disrespected in like manner.

There might have been good intention on the part of the ministers and the communicants during the “pasa-pasa” incident. But that particular way of distributing Holy Communion simply lacked respect, even love.

I’m deeply grateful to the organizers of the papal visit, but I wish that they could do something to avoid such and all kinds of Eucharistic abuse, especially in the concluding Mass on Sunday. Suggestion: tell all priests and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to stay in their assigned places, making sure that no Host is passed around (because, who knows where or in whose hands They might end up?).

I also hope that we all see that we’d be missing the point if we’re all too excited about the Holy Father’s visit, but forget to grow in love for Christ who daily visits us in the Holy Eucharist.

Oh, and viva el Papa! 🙂