Perspiring in the intense noonday sun of Southern Italy, we patiently waited–or as the French say, attended, for we were there for one attentive purpose–with a crowd of thousands in the square. United by that single intent, we had endured the heat and the anxious anticipation with good humor for several hours. After one or two false murmurings ran around the crowd that at last the moment had come, the uproar in one corner of the square indicated that now it really had. We stood on tiptoe, craned our necks, braced ourselves against our neighbors’ shoulders to catch a glimpse of what we had come to see.
Certainly, we had seen it countless times before–in pictures, on TV–but this was so intrinsically different. There was no medium between us and the truth; we had not come to see what we had seen before, but what our eyes had never seen: not the image of the reality, but the reality itself.
Exultant shouts of delight, cheers and applause moved slowly from one end of the square to the other. It sprang up quite near us; a few more tense moments and I felt my heart skip a beat as the white-clad figure of our Pope came into view.
Human beings are a two-fold miracle, unique in the created world, possessing both an intangible spirit and a physical body. What one part of us does affects the other. Though we believe with our mind and our heart, our faith is edified–our soul strengthened–when we can see and hear, touch and taste what we believe. That is why people treasure pictures of the ones they love, why family and friends embrace each other when they meet…and why thousands flock to see the Vicar of Christ on earth, with their own two eyes.