Pope Francis has come and gone. He spoke many words, but his witness was even more powerful.
Pope Francis addressed a whole spectrum of issues. In his address to Congress he lifted up the figure of Moses, revered by the three major religions, the one who in God's name gave to us the Ten Commandments. He then referred to Abraham Lincoln as a witness to the dignity of each human person at every stage of human development; Martin Luther King as a witness to racial, economic and social justice; Dorothy Day as a witness to compassion for the poor and the immigrant; Thomas Merton as a witness to openness to God and a preference for dialogue over armed conflict in the face of the world's challenges. He concluded with a focus on family.
Rather than listen to commentators or pundits, I encourage you to read his actual words. He has invited us to live the fullness of our Catholic faith. But he spoke even more powerfully in his outreach to the homeless in Washington, D.C., to the immigrant children in New York City and the imprisoned in Philadelphia. In effect, he invited us never to forget those on the margins of human life.
I was particularly moved by Pope Francis's appearance on the balcony at the Capitol after he had addressed Congress. He was flanked by the leaders of both houses of Congress, and ecclesiastic dignitaries. He turned to the people and asked: "Who is really important here?" Then turning to the children that gathered in front of the crowd of more than 50,000 people, he said: "The children are the most important. Let us strive to foster families and a society that welcomes children, helps children mature and assume their appropriate place in life."
We cannot forget that the primary purpose of Pope Francis's apostolic journey to the United States was to participate in the World Meeting of Families. I will be forever grateful to God for the gift of the family in which I was born and nurtured. I submit that there is no more important vocation that God gives to any of us than to be good parents, human parents and spiritual parents, to those God sends to us. May he inspire you and me to be the kind of father or mother that truly welcomes the little ones, nurtures the little ones and enables them to grow in love of the Lord and one another.