By MARK MOELLER, Special To The Bulletin | Published April 24, 2008
The splendor and grace of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the U.S. found its appropriate culmination at the papal Mass celebrated at Yankee Stadium.
As a man striving to live a life according to the Catholic faith, while still finding time to accessorize an abundant life with baseball, I found the opportunity to attend an unmerited blessing.
My wife, Patsy, and I arrived in New York on Friday, with the first wave of joyful pilgrims descending upon the city. From the outset, we were engaged in open discussions of our faith, as we happened to sit next to the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Ala., on our flight. He and Patsy discussed their similar paths to conversion. I added the observation that Mobile has a minor league baseball team.
We visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Friday evening, while quiet reverence still ruled before the pope’s arrival the next morning. We viewed the chair and podium where he would celebrate Mass for the clergy and watched many young priests anxiously practice their role in the proceedings. As we knelt within this sacred space, you sensed your prayers were joined by those of all who had preceded you there, starting with the immigrants who helped it rise from the ground, through the parishioners, and clergy, and popes, and countless others like me, who have been awed by the sight of God’s inspiration carried out by the hands of his creation.
Our pilgrimage continued on Saturday morning, as we met some of the thousands lining Fifth Avenue, people who seemed to be there not out of curiosity, but out of an eagerness to outwardly express the faith they often kept to themselves, and to show their admiration for the Holy Father. … Throughout the day, I could not ignore the tangible aspect of my faith, the revealing of beauty through art and architecture, the holy lives of the saints portrayed at the cathedral, the inspired truth of the liturgy, and the lineage of the successor of St. Peter.
On Sunday, the papal Mass found a way to heighten my desire for spiritual progress, as the Mass often does. After offering our prayers of thanksgiving for our parish, All Saints, for the privilege to represent all our fellow parishioners, we took in the scene. As if the roof was pulled off of a great cathedral, Yankee Stadium opened wide, with a divine light shining on the surface below. Ruth and Gehrig could never have imagined it like this, as even Yankee and Red Sox fans were moved to civility. Priests and police, families and firemen, single people and Secret Service, and all of God’s people, joined in peaceful communion. The world could see the gathered crowd evolve from eager fans of the one they called Benedicto, to reverent parishioners, and finally, and always, to adorers of the Eucharist. On this day, Pope Benedict XVI served as the humble shepherd, who switched on the bright stadium lights to reveal all that is beautiful and good and true in the church. As the trip ended, I was reminded by the Holy Father’s words that “Christ is our hope, and let us take the Lord at his word!” And like every baseball team in early spring, there is the hope for redemption of failed seasons from the fall.
Mark Moeller, 46, visited New York with his wife, Patsy. They belong to All Saints Church in Dunwoody where they participate in the pro-life ministry and youth coaching programs. He is a partner with a commercial construction company, May Construction Co.