Thoughts on a wonderful family weekend

Opinion: Larry Power

Pope Francis came to Ireland last weekend to mark the World Festival of Families, which was hosted in Dublin.My wife Mary and I decided that we wanted our children to share the experience of a visiting Pope first hand – Ben is 10 and Lucy is 8.I was eight the last time he came: unfortunately my sister was two weeks old and my father was a Garda and was working, so we didn’t get to go then. Mary’s family did travel to Limerick and has fond memories of the experience.We booked our tickets for Phoenix Park as soon as they became available and entered our names in to the St Joseph, St Benildus & St Mary’s Parish Draw for tickets to the Croke Park event. As it was the World Meeting of Families event, the Parish was sending a family to represent the Parish and we were lucky to be drawn from the hat to be that family. We had a wonderful weekend as a family.On Saturday we arrived in Dublin early and headed to Croke Park. It was our only visit to Croke Park this year, after a couple of visits last year following our brave hurlers.
But the approach to the event was very different to those days. The pubs were empty, and instead of excited supporters, we were passing Cardinals, priests and families from all over the world heading to the event. We got in early and were able to see some of the acts rehearsing before the event and soak up the atmosphere. In front of us were a group of Brazilians and a group of Spanish who were chanting over and back to each other like at a soccer game, except they were intermingling as a group and hugs were being shared all round. Once the entertainment commenced we were enthralled by lots of talented artists both professional and amateur, local and international and adult and children, including Daniel O’Donnell, Nathan Carter, Diarmuid Gavin and his family, along with various choirs and dance groups.Once the Pope arrived, the atmosphere grew and has he toured the pitch in his golf cart, it was like a team doing a lap of honour with the Liam MaCarthy Cup on show!
The excited welcome he received. Once he sat down, that excitement remained as Riverdance came on stage and 2,000 dancers surrounded the pitch.

We then heard some touching testimonies from families, local and International, about what family means to them. The Pope then spoke about how important family should be to us all.
The entertainment highlight, however, was Andrea Bocelli, whose renditions of ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Nessun Dorma’ were magnificent.On Sunday morning we made our way towards the Phoenix Park, walking four kilometres to get to our designated area for the mass. We laid down our blanket and waited for the Pope to arrive. Shortly before 2:30pm we heard that he was near. Then he arrived in his Popemobile. He started to move through the crowd and by sheer luck we managed to get very close to him as he passed.Despite a few showers and over 18,500 steps walked, we enjoyed the mass and the whole experience as a family very much. I’ve no doubt that our family will look back at the weekend Pope Francis visited Ireland as a happy event that we happily shared together.

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