Oh Happy Day


Spent this gorgeous spring morning with my favorite fellas in the world not related to me. Better pix and color commentary to come this evening. Must dash to other pope-related events just now. Meanwhile, read all about it here. Statements of the Pope & the President (yes, I was sniffling) here. Pop quiz: which of the two said this?
Love for freedom and a common moral law are written into every human heart, and ... these constitute the firm foundation on which any successful free society must be built.

How 'bout this one?

From the dawn of the Republic, America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation's founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature's God.

More later.

OK, it's later. ninme has some nice professional photos up, and a link to the Telegraph's photo gallery. I had my crummy camera with me, but I'm going to give you some illustrations so you'll have the "flavor" of the event. My son and I arrived at the Southeast Gate of the White House at 7:30 a.m. to find the line snaked all the way down 15th St, around the corner to Constitution Ave. and down a block or two. This was fun because there was no respecting of persons in the line and there were bishops and mostly-Catholic "bigshots" (Scott & Kimberley Hahn, Christopher & Wendy West, Fr. Pavone, Dan Robinson, Bill May, just about every Catholic activist known to man -- and Ralph Reed), and the poor, the halt and the lame standing along with us ordinary pew-sitters. Ran into several old friends I hadn't seen in awhile, which was fun.

I read in the press there were 9000 of us (all the gun shops must have been closed). Didn't know the White House lawn could hold that many. Anyway, here's what the South Lawn looked like at 9:30 am or so when we made it to our seats (bleachers opposite the ones in the next photo). Note the bishops milling around in the bottom right. It was a crisp, clear morning, you could feel the excitement of the crowd, and people were buoyant, eager to greet each other.

This next photo I show you just because it amused me to see all the Washington "players" taking turns snapping photos of themselves on the White House grounds --just the way all the tourists do. Each of these fellows posed in his turn, and they're only doing what everyone did (sorry, no time to crop it).

The center lawn remained somewhat empty until just after 10:00 am, when they opened the back gates to the folks with the later tickets (we had staggered entrance times). Then this happened:

See everyone (loads of school-kids in uniforms) running to get as far front as they can? And then this:

I've never seen such pomp and circumstance at the White House before. Usually some military band plays more or less to keep the masses calm as they wait for hours for events to begin. Then it's pretty much "Hail to the Chief" and on with the program. Not so this morning. The band did play jaunty marches all morning, but then the VIPs arrived in succession to take their seats: Cardinals, various politicians, the Vice President & Mrs. Cheney, etc. Then a massive color guard swept in from both ends of the lawn, parading in front of the South entrance and up the stairs to the first balcony. Then the largest Knights of Columbus color guard I've ever seen paraded in with Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts, and there was some kind of fife and drum corp in smart uniform as well. Only then did we get "ruffles and flourishes" and "Hail to the Chief." Once the President was in place, the papal limousine drove up, the Pope got out, and there was massive cheering.

After the anthem of the Holy See and the National Anthem (everyone sang along, I'm not certain we were meant to --seems like a breech of protocol to sing one anthem but not the other; oh well). Then Kathleen Battle was introduced to sing the Our Father, but before she could start people started shouting "Viva il Papa" and singing Happy Birthday to him (spiritedly, but quite ill, it must be said; the Pope ate it up, however). The rest of the program continued as scheduled --the President & the Pope giving lovely remarks and clearly enjoying themselves. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the President escorted the Pope to the first balcony, where they both waved and then the military band and the (Army? I'll look it up later) chorus led us in "Happy Birthday" for real.

I'm going to give you one last crowd shot just for you to see the White House decked out in yellow tulips in honor of the papal colors. She looked smashing this morning.

For all these photos, click to enlarge. Oh, wait, one more thing, even though it's a bad photo.

The souvenirs: ticket, program, mini-flags distributed to all comers (and bottled water, but you can probably imagine that for yourselves).