By John Rieping | Published 23 September 2015 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
MADERA, Calif. -- Her joy couldn’t be ignored.
“I feel very excited, very excited, for him to come to the United States,” said 57-year-old Margarita Pérez. “Yes. I’ve been watching on TV lately. … You know how he makes detours? I wish he could make a detour to over here. Since there’s a connection with Philadelphia and over here, California … It’s a possibility, right?”
That would be a long detour, someone noted.
“That’s okay. He’s the pope,” she said, and laughed.
The first visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. is evoking delight and hope in some Maderans — and polite indifference from others.
“Its irrelevant to me … I could take it or leave it,” said 45-year-old Alonzo Lopez.
“I think it’s alright,” said 28-year-old Frank Manzanarez. “Like he’s visiting the U.S. ‘cause he’s always up in Europe, yeah, and wants to (know) what’s going on in the United States.”
Showing far more enthusiasm, Pérez’s son thinks the bishop of Rome brings a renewed focus on the basics of Christianity.
“I feel that it gives people a sense of optimism as well as hope,” said Gustavo Pérez, 23. “And that it’s sort of like a new revival maybe … I feel Pope Francis does a lot to bridge that gap (between Catholics and the church) to actually proclaim what is in the gospel to Catholics all around the world.”
For Pérez, the visit’s highlight will be the pope’s address to the joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning.
“Many communities are impoverished,” he said, “and its because certain policies that Congress enacts that affect these communities. … With the pope having … the guts to be outspoken about that, I feel its very empowering for people and hopefully people will embrace that and become inspired by that …
“The media … depicts the pope as being progressive and all this and that. But that’s what the church was always about. It was always about doing the right thing.”
The most important part of the papal trip for his mother, Margarita Pérez, is a different congress entirely — the week-long World Meeting of Families Congress in Philadelphia.
“It’s not like how it was when I was growing up … It’s sad that there’s too many divorces, because, for me, marriage is a commitment,” she said. “You know it’s a covenant. Three (God and two spouses) in one (marriage), you know? And you have to have strength. You have to have Him first in your life to make it work.”
While Pérez tunes in via radio on 1250 AM, Sandra Rabadan, 25, is turning to the YouTube website for the latest on the pontiff.
“I’m excited for the community, for the families that get to go, and I’m just excited that he picked (the) USA, especially right now with these crises that are going on,” she said. “I see it as … a sign of God, … that He’s telling us to just be calm and He has everything under control.”
Rabadan said the nation’s legalization of same-sex marriage has shaken up the faith of those her age who are discerning their vocations in life.
“I know that a lot of people my age, we have questions about the faith … But you know we have to be firm in what the church teaches us,” she said.
+ + +
Rev. John Warburton, OSJ, pastor of St. Joachim Catholic Church, feels Pope Francis displays what the pontiff wrote about in his first apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel.” Warburton told a story of a longtime friend of the pope who visited after his election.
“So he eventually puts this question to his friend (the pope), ‘Jorge, what has happened to you? … You used to be so serious’,” said Warburton.
The pope allegedly replied, “The Holy Spirit.”
Warburton said Pope Francis doesn’t fall into a trap set by mainstream media that tempts Christians to skip evangelization to talk first about morality.
“His priority is evangelization. Bringing Jesus to people,” Warburton said. “Morality is important and has its place. But this pope has the strongest sense of any of the recent popes that evangelization — proclaiming the fundamental message that Jesus has saved you — is first … And (then) morality follows conversion …
“And he cares about the poor, the weak (and) the needy. He will defend them. But it’ll be the joy of the gospel and the good news of Jesus present and saving us (that is) first and foremost in all ways. And then, anything that is talked about on the serious issues of morality, they’re going to be connected and they’re going to be in that context.”