This is a reflection by Kelly on a special encounter her youngest child had with Pope Francis during his recent visit to the United States. It was originally posted on Encourage & Teach, the blog of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.
By: Kelly Power, Directress
On September 23, 2015, I experienced one of the most incredible days of my life as a mother and was reminded in a profound way that my child belongs to Our Lord. Witnessing my son’s encounter with the Holy Father left me speechless. But as I have had time to process and pray through this holy and beautiful moment, I have been able to find some words to describe the feelings, thoughts, and reflections that I experienced.
Funny enough, we made the decision to attend the Papal parade less than 24 hours before the event. Wow, am I glad we did. I eventually decided to go, not so much to see him, but mostly to show my love and support of him and quite simply to make sure he felt loved by us, his flock and Church.
Navigating the large crowds with a little one isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but with the help of my wonderful best friend, the day began quite smoothly. We drove in, parked and walked for a short time to our spot at the gate. That morning, two of my sisters in the Women Youth Apostles community also made a last minute decision to attend and were able to find us on the Ellipse.
On the way down and while waiting for the parade to begin, we joked about Kolbe being taken to the Pope, but I do not believe any of us really believed that it would happen. That was how we came to our spot; a lovely couple motioned us over to sit next to them because we had a baby and they thought there might be a chance that the Pope would stop.
After parking our car and walking to the Ellipse, we encountered protesters who warned us of worshipping a false God, but what they do not realize is that is not the case. As a Catholic, my love and incredible respect for our Holy Father is not because I believe that he himself is a God. Rather, the way he lives points so much to Christ Himself. When the Holy Father is near, in his gentleness, his joy, his love of all people no matter their faith, age, or condition, it is the love of Christ that I am feeling.
As we stood and waited for the Holy Father to drive by there was so much joy and excitement, which continued to grow as the time went by. As the motorcycles and cars came, both my friend and I began to feel butterflies in our hearts from the excitement of simply getting a glimpse of the Holy Father. Luckily, Kolbe had time to play, eat, and nap right up until the parade began. As Pope Francis approached us you could almost tangibly touch the holiness and caring that his presence he brings. We all could not help but smile and cheer, hoping we could express to our “Papa” the love we have for him.
As he got nearer to us, a security guard (I later found out Pier is the head of the Vatican security) scooped Kolbe Francis out of my arms and brought him to Pope Francis. In that moment, watching my son be carried to the Holy Father and then seeing him smile at Kolbe, it felt almost quiet, even amist the cheering crowd. Then as he kissed and blessed him, making a small cross on his forehead it almost seemed like slow motion.
After he was back in my arms, all I could do was smile, laugh, and kiss my sweet boy who had no idea was had just happened. I thought to myself, “One day we may be telling Kolbe he was kissed by a saint.”
In the moments to follow, I was shocked at the response of the crowd around us asking to touch Kolbe. A security guard even kissed him on the head. People asked to take pictures with him and of him. As a mom, I felt slightly protective, but also wanted to share the joy and the moment with everyone I could. I had no idea just how wide spread this photo and moment would be. As we walked home we overheard someone say, “Isn’t that the baby we just saw on CNN?” And, Facebook exploded with photos and videos of the moment, some reaching over 1 million views. I received calls about Kolbe’s moment with Pope Francis from many news stations. That day was so much to take in and manage that I barely had time to process what happened.
It was not until Mass the following morning that I begin to think of this verse:
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).
Why did this moment bring such emotion and joy to me? It is not that something has changed Kolbe or that he will all the sudden be a different baby or lead a different life – he still whines and fusses and did not sit still for Mass this morning. I think this verse, however, is exactly the answer.
The moment that Kolbe had with our Holy Father is what Jesus Christ wants for each one of us as HIS people. He wants to take hold of us, love us, and bless us with the Father’s incredible and overflowing love. This picture and moment capture Christ’s desire for each one of us as children of God. This is what brings tears to people eyes. Pope Francis is one of the greatest examples of Christ’s love I have ever witnessed, as so many of our popes are. Whenever he encounters one of us, God’s presence and tender love is felt and seen by all. That is why you cannot help but respond with gratefulness and joy to have witnessed such a powerful presence of Our Lord.
This holy moment is even more special because Kolbe Francis is actually named after Saint Maximillian Kolbe and Pope Francis. As an infant, he got off to a rough start in large part to his small size of 4 pounds, 8 ounces. So out of all my children, this affirmation of God’s care for my sweet boy was an amazing gift.
My uncle put it well when he said:
“Maybe the Pope is blessing our whole family through Kolbe Francis.”
I believe he has blessed us indeed…our family, our friends, our community, and all who are able to share this joyous moment with us. We all are humbled and grateful for the gift God has given to us through our Holy Father Pope Francis.
Kelly is the Directress of Women Youth Apostles and a mother of three children.
Kolbe was one of two babies from the Diocese of Arlington that were kissed and blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to Washington, D.C. Click here to read about the other family.