When we walked into the Pennsylvania Convention Center lobby this afternoon to sign in for the World Meeting of Families, cheerful volunteers handed us a T-shirt and a clear plastic backpack. Nevermind that we were already equipped with backpacks; now we had two. As I watched thousands of pilgrims sport this new accessory around the convention center — and to opening events including an address by Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles and Mass with Archbishop Charles Chaput — I grew more and more curious about exactly what was in these bags of mystery. Yes, we could see in them, but their contents were like a kaleidoscope, always changing, never quite in focus.
In the safety of my hotel room, I dumped the bag. The following are its contents:
- A navy blue cap with the World Meeting of Families logo. This might come in handy Saturday during the Festival of Families. Two days ago, weather.com forecasted perfect weather for this weekend and the outdoor events on Benjamin Franklin Parkway with Pope Francis. Tonight, the 10 p.m. news meteorologist painted a much darker picture — one that involves rain and wind.
- WMOF official T-shirt. I like it because I love green. Thank you, WMOF, for making these shirts green. Maybe chalk that one up to the intercession of WMOF co-patrons St. Gianna Molla and St. John Paul II?
- A WMOF official pin. Kind of like the Hard Rock Cafe, but it’s actually the World Meeting of Families.
- The Gospel of St. Luke. I’m not clear why a lone Gospel is in the pack, or why one of the evangelists was favored over the other. My guess: St. Luke’s Gospel may be the most family-centric, based on its inclusion of the Visitation and the longer Nativity narrative. That narrative contains this gem about the Blessed Mother’s reaction to people meeting her son: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
- Holy Cards. Not one for Blessed Junipero Serra, who will be canonized tomorrow. That was definitely a miss. However, one of them is actually a magnet, so it evens out.
- WMOF official pen. Which is good, because I lose pens. Double points if it works, because it’s hard to trust a free pen these days.
- Publications. OSV Newsweekly and Family Foundations among them! Both insightful reads, but I’m biased.
- Water bottle. I brought my own, but this one is also green! #LaudatoSi’
- Official schedules. Critical, because there’s a ridiculous amount of stuff going on. And that’s just the kids’ congress.
- Pope Francis Fan. This idea was clearly pilfered from the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity.
- Pope Francis poncho. Again, helpful in the event that the weather decides to test our pilgrim dispositions, but now I’m feeling guilty for packing the only umbrella in the house.
Not included: ALL THE PAPER. Namely, flyers for every Catholic organization under the sun, including a clothing company hawking “popeful” shirts — you know, “hopeful,” but with added pope for pop. Now, to plan which talks to attend tomorrow, and assess whether or not I’ll need the poncho…