One year ago this week, I was given the extreme privilege of attending a Mass celebrated by Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI.
Being at a Papal Mass is really an event that impacts and defines your life, similar to your wedding day or the birth of a child.
There were really quite a few surreal moments.
The moment the Pope came into the Stadium and could be seen by the masses was one. The place erupted. You can’t comprehend the charisma of the papacy. The Holy Spirit overflows. No other person could generate crowds of MILLIONS of people in any corner of the earth, even ones as remote as third world jungles. Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods could not do it. Paul McCartney could not do it. Tom Cruise could not do it. Neither could the Queen of England nor the President of the United States. They would get crowds, but not in the millions, not anywhere. In 1995, John Paul II celebrated mass in the Philippines. Estimates had four to seven million people in attendance.
The second lasting impression was how reverent 50,000 people could be. There were moments when you could hear a pin drop in the Stadium.
But the moment that was most surreal for me was such a small nuance but had such a huge impact. Through decades of attending Mass, I have heard the Eucharistic Prayer thousands of times. Most practicing Catholics can recite it by heart. There is a moment in the prayer where we say, "We offer prayers for Benedict, our Pope, William our Bishop", etc… When Benedict came to this moment, he said, "We offer prayers for me, your humble servant…" It was such a stark realization that the Vicar of Christ, the man to whom Christ gave all His authority to lead His beloved Church, was in standing my presence consecrating the Eucharist. The man that every Roman Catholic Church around the world prays for in every sacrifice of the mass was there in the flesh, standing right there. How can you not be speechless? To this day, at each Eucharistic Prayer since then, at these words, I am still impacted and truly understand the physical and spiritual singular man we are praying for.