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Don't Grab the Pope

I recently saw a social media post referencing a 1990 photo of lady grabbing the edge of Pope John Paul's cassock as he walked by her on an elevated platform. The individual posting photos said, "Never grab a priest's cassock, especially the Pope's!"

While I would agree it is not safe to grab anyone's garment, I understand the woman's desire to touch holiness. I, too, have felt the urge on more than one occasion. As physical beings, I think it is only natural to want to experience what we see as holiness with our sense of touch. Not to possess it, but to feel it.

While chaperoning parish teens at a Stubenville conference, I was part of the crowd of over 5000 gathered for evening adoration in the Dallas-area convention center. For three hours Father processed with the monstrance through the aisles, among the silent adorers, so every person could see Jesus and be seen by Jesus. Teens and adults kneeled as Christ passed by in the Blessed Sacrament.

I was on the end of the aisle and had an unobstructed view as the procession approached. As I knelt, like the hemorrhaging woman in the Gospels, all I could think was "if I but touch his cloak, I shall be cured." (Matthew 9:21)

So, I did. I reached out my hand and gently touched the humeral veil as He passed. I was instantly filled with peace. Years later, I am still brought to tears thinking of the relief Christ brought me at that moment.

More recently, I was overcome with the desire to touch a Sister as she sat in front of me at Mass. She was a tiny woman with a frail silhouette. The sparkle in her eyes said she was anything but fragile. I recall thinking she almost glowed when she turned and offered me peace.

Minutes later, after receiving the Eucharist, I knelt to pray and closed my eyes. Imagine my surprise when the insides of my eyelids lit up! It was like someone was shining a flashlight in my face. I quickly opened my eyes to find the culprit. I looked all around for the source of the light. I closed my eyes and turned in every direction. The light came from in front of me and when I opened my eyes, all I found was the back of Sister's veil. I tested my hypothesis several times and it was her! Sister gave off a spiritual glow I could only perceive through my eyelids.

Receiving Christ changed us both. She glowed and I could see her glow. In the few moments I had left to pray, all I could think to do was ask Jesus to open my heart and transform me the way Sister had been transformed. I wanted a spiritual glow like hers.

Then the urge to touch her became almost overwhelming. Of course, it is not socially acceptable to just reach out and touch strangers, especially a Sister. My next prayer was for self-control.

I am not ashamed to say I was more than a little excited when Sister sat back in the pew her shoulder brushed my fingers. Now, I didn't go all fan-girl, refusing to wash my hand for days. Instead, I joyfully received the grace God showered on me through this tiny Sister. He reminded me that holiness can be right in front of me, I just have to look for it even when I cannot see it with my eyes.

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