NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 2, 2013

The day the pope waved at me

As I See It
Ralph Ayers

---- — Well, what do you know, April is here, and hopefully we’ve seen the last of that nasty winter. Of course we all remember the April Fool’s Day storm, so I better shut up! Two exciting things that happened were another birthday and the Pats traded Wes Welker, who, by the way, was the best thing since sliced bread.

Well, we got a new pope in March, Pope Francis to be sure, and the other, speaking about the new pope, I have a story to tell about meeting Pope John Paul. Well, not exactly, but with a few thousand other people who happened to be at the same place, and at the same time. Let me tell you how that happened, if I may!

Back in the ‘90s Mrs. Ayers and I were invited to Texas by our in-laws, and accepting the offer, we went to San Antonio where the pope was to make a visit. The day arrived and we boarded a bus in the wee hours of the morning, arriving at a large parcel of flatland in the pitch dark. We were then escorted to an area where we were to be for the next few hours.

When daylight finally arrived, we saw thousands of people in block areas, similar to us, and a decorated staging area a distance from us. For the pope’s visit, Texas allowed over 100,000 Mexicans to go to the event, obviously being Catholic. Looking around, there were no trees or shade to be found.

Finally, the pope arrived by Pope-mobile and said a Mass and a sermon in English and Spanish. If you’re Catholic, it was a High Mass, and we know that is very lengthy. If you had to relieve yourself, you could walk a half-mile or so, and you knew you were there by the aroma. You had your choice, of course, as there must have been 5,000 Jiffy Johns to choose from.

To shorten this story, the ceremonies got over, and then our pope got back in his chariot, going between each block and blessing his congregation. Yup, that’s when I met the pope, because when he went by my block, he sort of waved at me. At least I think so, but I did see hundreds of people waving back, so maybe I’m wrong.

The interesting part of the pope’s visit to that area was when he found out there was a classmate of his, a woman, who went to the same school in Poland, and, you guessed it, he had the caravan drive to her home. He got out and knocked at her door. Answering, she darn near fainted. He spent about an hour with her, resumed talking about their childhood. This is the kind of pope John Paul was and it is hoped that our new pope follows in his footsteps.

Well, we finally got back to our bus, at about 4:30 p.m., having stood for nine hours in the Texas sun, and the highlight of my day was feeling the air conditioner from the bus. Yes, I slept well that night. The question remains: Would I, if having the opportunity, do it again? I would probably fake it, and tell Pope Francis I went to school with him, and maybe he’d accept the offer and drop by my condo. Otherwise, I’ll take a rain check, as my aged body can’t handle that abuse anymore.

---

Ralph J. Ayers of Newburyport calls himself a “local yokel.”