Yesterday was a typical Sunday. Morning Masses; baptisms; rounds at the hospital and then an evening Mass….with a bit of work on the bulletin notes that I need to get ready EARLY for Palm Sunday and Easter. When I returned from the hospital I was curious to see how Pope Francis made out at his first Sunday Angelus, which I predicted would bring out large crowds into la piazza di San Pietro….by some accounts, 300,000+ persons were present to hear the compassionate message of this humble man who has the heart of a kindly pastor. All that is well and good but I searched for information about his successes of the day something caught my eye…surely it was not so but yes, it actually happened: Pope Francis decided to celebrate Sunday Mass at the Parish of Sant’Anna which is a small parish church located inside of the walls of Vatican City. I could not believe my eyes. His 6 minute homily preached sans text was to the point and gave the congregation something to take with them as left and returned to their homes but what happened after is what really prompted this blog post. After he imparted his blessing, Pope Francis left the church and began to greet the faithful as many parish priests do each and every Sunday, taking the time to greet and embrace all who came his way….to the shagrin of his security detail….he is a Head of State folks…..! He looked so comfortable; so at ease; so normal. As small children approached him, he blessed their heads and kissed them. “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.” I was floored. Tears streamed down my face as I watched this kindly pastor be just that; a shepherd with the heart of Jesus who wants Jesus to be made real. Watching Pope Francis greet the faithful gave me a renewed sense of hope. On Sundays, that “face-time” is when people feel a connection with their priest. The warm embrace; the smile; the handshake….these are the moments when parishioners tend to feel “connected” with and to their priest. Here at St Mary’s, after Communion, the children are always invited forward to come and receive a blessing. When I first began this practice early on in my tenure as pastor it was slow-going….now, the lines are long and the children know that they are truly welcome. Jesus wants us all to feel welcome. Pope Francis is reminding us of this and he has done so relatively quickly in his pontificate. My words here today might seem more of a string of rambling thoughts and I agree….perhaps that is what happens when one feels as if the Spirit is blowing things around in the Church! Stay tuned, I think that we are in for a great ride!