I'll try to relate the day in order-so if you're looking for something in particular, scroll down-I'll put headings on. I have purposely NOT read any other coverage.
The Metro did a pretty good job of moving people when we went. We left my sister's at around 6:00 AM. We boarded the Orange Line a few stops east of Vienna. It wasn't too crowded-but when we changed to the Green Line at L'Enfant Plaza-it was very crowded. The Metro personnel were out in force and moving people to right areas to board. When we got out a Navy Yard, a block or two from the Nationals Park-it was wall-to-wall people. I wish I had taken a picture of the escalator up to the street level.
Getting in the Ballpark-the setup
Security moved people through the metal detectors pretty quickly. At this time (7:20 AM or so) the crowds weren't too bad in the park. They had a tent set up for confessions with some 30-40 priests. There were lines-ushered by the Missionaries of Light-of about 20 people each waiting for confession. My two oldest boys and myself got in line at 7:57, but were told confessions were closing in 3 minutes. We got in anyway. I am told that at least 4 priests were still hearing confessions when the Mass started at 10:00.
Our seats were in section 131 L (row T)-just by first base. The altar was in center field. It was a long way for my eyesight. There was plenty more room on the field for chairs than were used; I don't know why more people weren't allowed on the field.
The music before Mass was very loud. There was a wonderful rendition of Ave Maria by Denyce Graves (as well as other songs.)
Everything started on time. (I got a sunburn on my head because I removed my had once Mass started.)
The crowd was enthusiastic (not wild as in Boston 1979 with John Paul II in the rain) for Benedict XVI when he circled the field in the Pope-mobile. We got a great view of him as we were only 18 rows from the field.
Many, many priests and religious were present. Mrs. Curley commented that there were many more sisters in habit than out of habit. I asked her exactly how she could tell that. She replied that she can spot a nun (sister) out of habit a mile away.
Many young priests (and/or seminarians) were there. You should have seen them run to the area Pope Benedict was passing on the way out. It was warming to the heart to see that enthusiasm.
Let me preface by saying that my only experience of this kind in the past was 1979 on the Boston Common. I don't remember the music. I recall it being a Mass in the pouring rain-not overly orchestrated. Yesterday at the Nationals park it seemed like an entertainment extravaganza. (Do Americans automatically clap at everything just because they are in a ballpark?) It was WAY too much. The Mass is the Mass-it doesn't need to reflect every cultural and music tradition known to man. It needs to be centered on the Eucharist. We (even my older kids made similar comments-before I said anything) all felt this way.
Pope Benedict may decide not to do any more of these open air Masses based on this experience of what I saw and heard, and maybe that is not a bad thing. He could have come in and made the stadium tour-given a talk and left. It would have been easier on him and on us!
(When Placido Domingo sang Panis Angelicus -I thought to myself "That guy's pretty good-he sounds a bit like Placido Domingo". I hadn't read the credits on the program.)
The Mass program was included in the bag we were handed-and they stuck to it. Everything was on time.
They didn't have enough priests distributing Holy Communion. Some people in our section were just receiving during the final blessing. There were hundreds of priests there-only a handful of them distributed Holy Communion.
What Benedict XVI said
The Pope addressed numerous issues: the history of the Church in America, the scandal, the rise of secularism, attacks on life and marriage, etc. But it came down to one thing he said for me: How does the Hope Christ gives change our lives?: the way is through Penance (both the sacrament and practice of) and personal holiness. That's what I heard
A nightmare. No one could leave until the Pope had left the stadium-but no one was told this, so there was a crush at the gates. Once out, they had opened half the street to form lines for people waiting on buses and then closed the sidewalk. People (like us) who were trying to walk to the Metro were forced to push through the crowds waiting for buses. We got separated once-but found each other again. (I'm sure my straw hat helped everyone center on me.)
Once we got to the Metro, (which took almost an hour to go 2 blocks), things settled down again. The Green Line was crowded, but after that it was clear sailing.
The Catholic Standard had pictures of the Papal Mass in a special coverage print edition which they were handing out on way out of the stadium. Pretty quick work.
We met a few priests (one from Texas) on the Metro. One of them gave their 'gift bag' (better than one we got) to our youngest daughter. We really had a great time on Metro. The kids became pros. I gave out and collected their all-day passes every time we needed them.
"Awesome to see the Pope in person."
"I would do it again." (i.e. travel 1000 miles-up and back in 48 hours to see the Pope.)
"I liked seeing him wave out the car window, (most priests don't do that.)"
"I think (from seeing him myself) that Pope Benedict likes bringing Christ to the people but would give up the job in a second if he could."
We had a great time. The kids were exceptionally well behaved the whole trip and stuck close to us. We left DC for home at about 5:45 PM. There was a drunk driver who almost hit us twice on the way home on I-95. We finally lost him. (He passed us.) Several miles later we were stopped for big accident. We were sure the drunk driver caused it. But he didn't. He was in the traffic jam and then almost hit another car when we started out again. The State Police noticed he was driving with no headlights (and erratically and arrested him.) We stopped in SC at around 1:00 AM and I slept for 2 hours. Then we made the final push home-arriving at 4:15 AM.
This morning when I fed my pigs, I rubbed their bellies and they laid down on their sides like dogs. They must have missed me.
I will post pictures of our trip in a few days. Could to be home.
Oremus pro invicem!