Brush With Holiness

April 20, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's an invitation of a lifetime... welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to the White House and attending a papal mass at Washington Nationals baseball stadium."I was really humbled by it, I think it was a really special treat and I will cherish the memory forever," says Catherine Manfredo.

Manfredo is the executive director of Fresno's Catholic Charities. When she got the initial invitation in an email she thought it was a joke. Only six others in the Fresno diocese were chosen to attend.

A picture of her in front of the White House was taken just before the pope's arrival last Wednesday.

"Then they began to sing happy birthday to him spontaneously. Everybody was given these papal flags and U.S. flags so the flags were waving and everybody was singing and yelling, one of those you pinch yourself moments."

This is actually Manfredo's second brush with holiness. In 1987 she was among the tens of thousands at Pope John Paul II's mass at the L.A. Coliseum. But she feels there was something extraordinary about this papal visit.

"It was a great day, it was exciting but it wasn't the connection this was."

She brought back a bag full of mementos, a miniature replica of the papal staff, a papal flag, and a mass book. But the one thing closest to her heart was something she already had... her grandmother's rosary which she had blessed by the pope.

"And so I felt very blessed by the fact that he carried the rosary my grandmother had."

As for the pontiff's spiritual messages, she appreciated his attention to the church abuse scandal. "I was also very moved by the Pope's reaching out to the victims of sexual abuse in the church. And I think his straightforward addressing of it was really admirable and made me feel really good and empowered."


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