Catholics (and many non-Catholics) in the United States are excited to welcome Pope Francis for his visit from September 22-27th. This marks just the tenth time that a pope will visit the United States, and will be the first such trip for Pope Francis. He will not have much time for rest, arriving in Washington, D.C. by way of Cuba for a whirlwind of meetings and official events in the nation’s capital.
After meeting with President Obama, Canonizing Junipero Serra and addressing the United States Congress in Washington, the Holy Father will travel on to New York City. There, he’ll visit a school, take part in a multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial, address the United Nations, process through Central Park, and then say Mass at Madison Square Garden.
His final destination in the United States will be Philadelphia, where he will visit a prison, and will take part in the World Meeting of Families. Scattered in between all these visits and Masses, he will also have meetings with bishops and many others. The schedule sounds a bit rigorous! If you are unable to keep up with the Pope on all his adventures, here is a list of things you can do to join in the excitement of this monumental visit.
Get to know Pope Francis better by watching this animated video on his life.
8 Ways to Participate in the Pope’s Visit to the U.S. (No traveling required!)
You can unite in prayer with millions of families around the world as we intercede for the success of the Pope’s visit to the United States and the World Meeting of Families. It goes without saying that there are many who are not happy to welcome the Pope. Prayer for his protection, his endurance, and that his message would be clear to all who hear. You can find a prayer to say with your family by clicking here, but any form of prayer for this significant event will provide special graces.
2. Host a ‘Watch Party’
There are a few different news sources that will be streaming and televising many of the events of the Pope’s trip and the World Meeting of Families. Take the opportunity to open your home and invite family, friends, or neighbors to watch one of the highlights of this event. Live streaming can be found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops page. EWTN will also offer televised events throughout the week.
3. Read “Love is Our Mission”
It’s not too late to read “Love is Our Mission” – the catechism that was published by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family to help people prepare for the World Meeting of Families. This book has been written in a way that is easy to understand, and with the aim of inspiring us to create homes where we truly live out the call to be the “domestic church.” The catechesis offers wisdom and insight into many of the issues that will be discussed at the World Meeting of Families, complete with discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
4. Speak Up
The words of Pope Francis are often distorted by the media and taken out of context. Make sure that you read reliable Catholic news sources so that you can be able to defend the beliefs of the Church. Also, take advantage of the opportunity to talk about the Pope and use it as a tool of evangelization. Ask co-workers and friends if they are aware of the Pope’s visit to the United States. Point out some of the positive things he is doing: building bridges across all religions (the ecumenical service in NYC), visiting those who are imprisoned, and meetings with President Obama and the United Nations. Use this as a way to demonstrate the Church’s love for all people, in spite of religious differences, political belief, and state of life. Think of questions to ask that might get people thinking about their view of Pope Francis and his mission in visiting the United States.
5. Plan some family fun
The World Meeting of Families is an integral aspect of the Pope’s visit. Choose to take this week to carve out some extra time to focus on family. If you are a single young adult, make time to Skype or take your parents out to dinner. If you have a young family, consider doing the Pope Francis craft available at Catholicicing.com . People of all ages can watch one of the films being featured at the World Meeting of Families Film Festival (The Mighty Macs, Rudy, and The Sound of Music – just to name a few!) Focus on your own family and on creating a memorable experience for them to remember this significant papal visit to the USA.
6. Obtain a Plenary Indulgence
Follow the steps necessary to receive a Plenary Indulgence for you and your family. An indulgence is “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. There are specific conditions for receiving an indulgence.” (Manual of Indulgences N1)
Pope Francis has issued a decree stating, “The faithful who, being truly repentant, are unable to participate in this event may obtain the Plenary Indulgence, under the same conditions, if, united in spirit and mind with the faithful gathered in Philadelphia, they devoutly recite within their own families the Our Father, the Creed and other prayers for the same intentions, invoking the Divine Mercy, especially when the Holy Father’s words or message are broadcast on television and radio.” (Philadelphia of the Latins) You can find out more about all the details by reading more here.
7. Be present on social media
Let’s join our evangelistic efforts together on social media. From hashtags to the new papal emojis available, using social media is an easy way to spread the Gospel message that Pope Francis is sure to deliver. Post updates on Twitter or pictures of your family taking part in these events on Instagram to show your support of the Pope and the World Meeting of Families.
8. Take a virtual pilgrimage
The United States Conference of Catholic videos will offer a virtual pilgrimage for those who are unable to travel to see Pope Francis. The downloaded pdf (available on the USCB website) guides us by providing specific prayers for each one of the Pope’s visits.
It goes without saying that many of us would love to be able to travel and be with the Pope as he addresses the people of the United States, but due to the season of life we are in it just might not be a possibility. By participating in these activities suggested above, you can grow in your knowledge of the Holy Father, in your unity with the Church Universal (and American), and in your faith. Don’t miss the opportunity!