Saturday, August 25, 2018

Remembering John Paul II and Missing Francis I #Pope

His Holiness Pope Francis I arrives in Dublin this morning and I'm not going to see him. I don't have any tickets to his events, and to be honest I made no effort to get any. I had hoped that as part of the Blackrock Choir that we would be asked to participate in the main Mass on Sunday in some way - but it did not come to pass. I wish I was able to go to the Mass, but all the bother about long walks, roads and Luas closed, health & safety dictators ordering us about, and long waits put me off.

Pope John Paul II in Galway.
Image source: RTÉ.

Simca 1100 (ours was blue).
Image source: Living the life in Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher.

It was no bother on 30th September 1979 to travel all the way from Carnew to Galway for the Youth Mass with John Paul II. I was 19, and I travelled with my two brothers Joe (18) and Brian (15) in a small Simca 1100 car. We had our camping gear, and most of the boot space and half the back seat were taken up with a gas cooker and cylinder. We forgot to bring a regulator and could not use the cooker! Nevertheless we camped over night and headed off by foot to see the Pope the next day.

About 300,000 young people of Ireland attended this Mass in Galway Racecourse. We were all corralled into separate sections based on diocese - we were from the Diocese of Ferns. I remember a lot of rain, though Joe had cleverly brought along a sheet of black plastic to cover us - I'm certain there was cow shite on it! We were warmed up by Bishop Eamonn Casey and Fr Michael Cleary singing songs before the Pope arrived - if only we knew what they were up to after Mass every Sunday! We cheered at the top of our voices when the Pope's helicopter flew over the race course, and later when he said the magical words "Young People of Ireland, I Love You". After Mass we headed back to the camp site to start our journey home, but our little Simca broke down on the busy Galway-Dublin road and we spent a very uncomfortable night in the car. No mobile phones at that time to let our parents know where we were - I'm sure they were worried sick.

As a 19 year old this Mass was one of the highlights of my younger years - I had never been (nor since) at such a huge gig. Being uncomfortable didn't bother me in the slightest, but now 39 years later I am less tolerant. Instead on Sunday I will be celebrating my daughter's birthday!

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