Trailing along with thousands of journalists on two papal visits to the United States — Pope John Paul II in 1996 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 — gave me a taste for papal visits that has yet to abate.
Yes, they are incredibly hard work. Slogging around in the rain for days during the 1996 visit, left me with bones that ached the whole winter. Keeping up with Papa Benedict’s schedule in New York was no easy task either.
But the glory of it all, being in New York in both instances with millions of sisters and brothers in faith, created a cascade of memories I wrap my mind around when times are tough.
Well, times are tough for Catholics right now and I wish I were on board a plane heading for Malta to tromp around after the pope for the next two days in that historic and beautiful island as he follows in the footsteps of St. Paul.
The pilgrimage marks the 1,950th anniversary of the famous shipwreck off the coast of the island which landed the Apostle on Malta for a three month stay that brought Christianity to Malta.
I’m betting the journey and the chance to meet with, experience and enjoy fellowship with Catholics as they share this historically marvelous landscape with the pope, will lift countless souls.
The next best thing to actually being on a papal journey (as I’ve discovered over the past couple of years) is tuning in to EWTN’s live coverage. I say past couple of years because the cable company that supplies the town I live in had split coverage until then.
EWTN aired from midnight to 4 p.m. and was replaced (often in mid-papal speech) by foot stomping Evangelicals. Persistent telephone calls and downright badgering of the company finally won the day.
That being the case, I’ll be visiting Malta with Papa Benedict this weekend and maybe even more importantly, with thousands and thousands of Catholics who’ll be walking with him.
For the EWTN schedule of special, live coverage of the visit, go to EWTN.com/tv/index2.htm
Before the coverage starts, check out these websites for background information on the island and it’s important place in Catholic history: www.parsagard.com is a good website for insight about the island; www.knightsofmalta.com will fill you in on the very special role this religious order had in saving Western civilization and sacreddestinations.com/categories/footstepsofpaul is a marvelous site that opens the window on all of Paul’s journeys.
Tune in tomorrow to Keeping the Feast for Maltese dishes that will capture the essence of the cuisine. They are easy to prepare and won’t keep you away from missing the coverage.