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Festival of Families

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Day 5

A Slow Start

The whole family slept in until around 11am, we were so worn out by the events of the Bike Rideweek and the events today didn’t start until the afternoon.  It was nice to sleep in because we had to ride our bikes into Philadelphia to get to the events with the Pope.  We eventually made it onto our bikes and headed out to Philadelphia by the recommend bike routes.  My wife Denae dutifully prepared lunch drinks and snacks for our time in Philadelphia, she is always so attentive to the needs of our family (I am just concerned with how to get from point A to B and the rest will just magically work itself out).

franklinOur bike ride was pretty good, we rode on some very nice trails and some not so nice trails which highlighted the breakdown of the family as we passed by some pretty substantial gang tagged areas.  The graffiti was so pervasive and the barbed wire was so heavy, that we prayed that we find an jamesalternate path back to the hotel in the evening.  We eventually made it to the Benjamin Franklin bridge which was closed to all vehicular traffic and began the long walk over the Delaware River.  This was really beautiful, I don’t know that this bridge has ever been closed like this before, so this may have well been a once in a lifetime trip across this very beautiful and long bridge.

Bike riding has always been a family favorite and this 8.5 mile bike ride into the city for the Festival of Families brought back fond memories of PoPo and how much he loved to go on adventures which often involved bike riding.  He would have loved this adventure.

The Festival of Families

parkway picThe streets of Philadelphia were empty of personal vehicles, everyone was required to take public transportation (subways mainly), walk or ride bicycles.  The main area of the Festival of Families is on the Ben Franklin Parkway, which is a long parkway which extends from City Hall all the pope tvway to the Franklin Institute.  There were large TV monitors setup all along the Parkway and at various places throughout the city providing play by play reporting of the Pope’s speeches, and just about his every move within the city.

securitySecurity was pretty tight, the TSA and the Secret Service had checkpoint setup to ensure that everyone in the Festival of Families area was safe, but unlike Airport screenings, the checkpoints were a pleasant experience that was very family friendly.

Of the large secure area of the city, there were two sections, one that required ticketed access and another required a free ticket.  We got our free tickets because we attended the World Meeting of Families, but they also released another 10,000 tickets to the general public, but these went quickly, within the first several minutes of being available.

A True Father in the Faith

Pope Francis is affectionately know as the Holy Father to Catholics around the world.  This term is not meant to take any glory away from God the Father from whom our Fatherhood has its origin.  To the degree that we follow Christ and become like Him, we become good and sometimes great Fathers after God the Father’s own heart.  Many would say that Pope Francis has done a pretty good job in seeking the heart of God the Father.  He loves the poor and the sick, he loves families and he is humble.  We got to experience his love for his spiritual children last night.  It is obvious that for a 78 year old man, this trip is not easy, he appears to have some physical limitations as well as he moves slowly and has a hitch when walking, especially towards the end of the day, but he has persevered in his trip to the United States.  As we departed the Festival of Families, he was still on the stage listening attentively to the last performers, this was around 10pm.  He smiled, hugged and also took notes as each of the families chosen to speak to him shared their personal witness of faith.

seminariansThe highlight of the evening was when Pope Francis spoke in Spanish off the cuff to the families present.  He gave fatherly advice and told us that there are two things he wished to stress to us.  There are two important things in family life, children and the elderly.  Children are the future and the elderly are our link to the past.  If we neglect either of them we lose out on our history or our future.  The full text of the Holy Father’s remarks can be found here.  Apparently he had a prepared speech for us, but decided to forgo it for the spontaneous talk he gave.  He had a translator that provided English in realtime.  He really seemed to be speaking to each of us as a Father. I know I was moved by this experience as my children were also.

Read the whole series on our Pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families here.

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About the Author:

Allen Hébert is a Senior Systems Engineer in the Information Technology Industry. Allen and his wife Denae, have been married for over 28 years and they have been blessed with nine children. Allen enjoys swimming, driving the family RV and the great outdoors.

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