About Me, Catholic Spirituality, Evangelization, Family Life, motherhood, Parenting, Pope Francis

Pope bait: a Philadelphia story

September 27, 2015

When we did the math on the World Meeting of Families and Luke’s due date, it didn’t seem likely that I’d be joining Dave for the event. All throughout his pregnancy I thought to myself, “if he comes 2 weeks early, maybe I’ll feel good enough to go. 8 weeks is a decent amount of time to recover before traveling.”

Well, as these things go, early he was not. Not by much, anyhow. But the recovery and reentry period into our new normal has been so good that about 2 weeks ago we looked at each other, Luke and I, and we said hey, let’s book that flight. It’ll be great.

And you know what? It was great. Luke’s a great flyer, I had the kindest seat mates, and there was a beer festival in the terminal just before security. I mean, come on. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Or maybe it does.

Maybe, after a morning of inspiring talks (Rick Warren, Cardinal O’Malley, Simcha Fisher), an encounter with the first class relics of Bl. (soon to be saints!) Zelie and Louis Martin, an evening of dinner and drinks with great friends, and a minimal amount of sleep, you awaken the next morning to the opportunity to join an old friend and a new friend with generous hearts and brave, barricade-guarding elbows and 2 extra tickets to a papal event.

And then maybe you spend the next 7 hours camped out on the concrete alongside your strong and uncomplaining husband in the hot autumn sun, a sweating and sometimes bodily-fluid-emitting newborn (still a newborn if 12 pounds? pls advise) strapped to your chest and you wait in joyful and occasionally bored and jostled hope for a glimpse of him.

Of Peter. Of Christ’s Vicar on Earth, a tangible witness to God’s fatherly love.

If you’ve ever been remotely close to the pope – to any pope – you’ve felt it. You know what I’m talking about; it’s the grace of office. It’s the undeniable transformative action of the Holy Spirit on a humble, ordinary human being, a sinner like all the rest of us and “a son of the Church,” by his own admission.

And it’s awesome.

It’s a soul-level gut punch of love and joy and unbelievable conviction of the love God has for us.

And if you’re a mom, and this happens? Well, it’s less of a gut punch and more of a head on collision:


That’s my baby.

And that’s a blurry, imperfect picture of a priceless moment because I was crying and shaking and couldn’t fumble my phone up to take the shot, so my slightly-less-emotional friend caught this one. And I thank God that I couldn’t muster ye olde iPhone into firing position, because you know what? He looked right at me.

And while I locked eyes with Papa Francesco and yelled to him in broken Italian and English and snotty mom-tears my love and gratitude, I felt quite clearly that he was looking at me, too. That we were two people in a crowd of tens of thousands, but for a second we encountered one another.

I don’t mean that he was as excited to see me as I was to see him (though if you’re reading Papa? big fan.) but that for the moment he took to look into the eyes of the hysterical mother of the balding baby he’d just kissed, he allowed himself to be fully present. To me. And then to Dave. And then to every other countless other persons among the millions and millions in the crowds all week.

It was such a gift.

And while the ultimate souvenir of a papal smooch and photo op has now been bestowed upon our little family not once but twice, by two different popes on two different continents, the real treasure remains for me that moment of encounter.

I actually feel a deeper sense of appreciation for his pastoral approach now. I think I “get” Francis a little more than I did 30 hours ago.

(And, happily, I’ve gotten a few more pictures, too. So it’s a double edged sword, this technology of ours, because while I was free to soak up that moment of encounter, it was the generous efforts of fellow pilgrims in the crowd surrounding us who sacrificed something of their own encounters to capture the moment. And I’m so glad they did.)

Thank you, Papa Francesco. For coming to our country, for speaking your heart, and for kissing my baby. Check the roster at the NAC for Luke Uebbing in about 22 years. I have a feeling this encounter will leave its mark on him, too.




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  • Reply Caitlin September 27, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    So happy for you guys, Jenny!! I hope you can get a copy of that Getty Images photo to hang next to Papa Benedict kissing JP!

  • Reply Micaela September 27, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Tears. Looking into the eyes of the Vicar of Christ. I think I might have been weepy and snotty too. Thank God our God knows us so well as to send us love and leadership through a father.

  • Reply Johan Persyn September 28, 2015 at 1:06 am

    So happy for you Jenny, the baby and the family! Snotty papa from Belgium. How you describe your feelings and thoughts about pope Frances and ‘getting it’, it’s a grace to read your story. Love and blessings to you

  • Reply CathyCMA September 28, 2015 at 4:45 am

    Amazing! Very cool!

  • Reply erin September 28, 2015 at 4:47 am

    I’ve been following you for a while and am so filled with JOY for you and your family. I was up front with the papal choir but watched everything on the Jumbotron. Shed tears of grace and love all day! <3

  • Reply Rosemary September 28, 2015 at 5:04 am

    Oh Jenny, I kept checking IG to see if Luke had been kissed. I’m so happy for you… and this write up – tears…

  • Reply Allison September 28, 2015 at 5:52 am

    What an incredible moment!! And you shared this experience so beautifully. I especially love how you sum up why the Pope is so important and meaningful. I’ve been struggling to express why myself, and I so appreciate how you put it. What a gift this memory and those photos will be to your little one someday!

  • Reply Ashley September 28, 2015 at 6:07 am

    The feeling when you’re in the Pope’s presence…you described that perfectly! I saw JPII at World Youth Day in Toronto as a teenager and it’s something I’ll never forget.
    I’ve been getting all choked up with every picture you share. What an incredible moment for your family!

  • Reply Katie September 28, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Wow! What an absolute gift! I am so happy for you and your little Luke!

  • Reply Colleen Martin September 28, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Oh my gosh!! Doubly blessed, so very exciting! When talking to my husband about things I’ve read, I always described you as “Jenny, the one whose baby got kissed by the Pope” and now I’ll have to refer to you as “Jenny, the one whose babies All the Popes seek out to kiss!”

  • Reply Elizabeth September 28, 2015 at 11:01 am

    How beautiful! Tears over here! Thank you for sharing!
    We were hoping for this sort of moment for our little George Francesco in Rome last spring, but we made the mistake of sitting on an aisle blocked by a barricade, so the popemobile never came by. Even better though, my dad, who was traveling with a wheelchair, got to sit in the front section with my mom and he got a high-five from Papa Francesco! I’m hoping George will have lots more opportunities to encounter the Pope (maybe he’ll meet Luke at the NAC in a couple of decades :)), but who knows if my dad will make it back to Rome. God is so good!

  • Reply Amanda Teixeira September 28, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I am bawling just reading the story, so I can only imagine how you were feeling in that moment of encounter! What a gift!

  • Reply Cami September 28, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Tears! How wonderful, Jenny! Truly special.

  • Reply Diana September 28, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Wow!!! How incredible!

  • Reply Michele September 28, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Wow!!!! This is beautiful!!!!

  • Reply Patty September 28, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    I have never left a comment on a blog before, but this is beyond amazing. Pope Francis is re-instilling hope and faith in mankind, one kiss at a time. Thanks for sharing! xo

  • Reply Laura @ Mothering Spirit September 28, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    This is so beautiful. The moment, the photos, your words – all of it. What a treasure the whole thing will be to your son! Thank you for letting us into this holy encounter.

  • Reply Katie @ The Catholic Wife September 28, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    I was just in tears reading this. What a beautiful, priceless, heaven-meets-earth kind of gift. I’d be breathless and so very humbled to even see Pope Francis, let alone experience a brief touch on our marriage and family. God bless you!

  • Reply Alice September 28, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    We saw Luke!! My toddler and I were exactly across the street from you — I was holding him up, but Pope Francis (or rather, the Secret Service on his behalf) was plucking babies from your side of the street at the moment 😉 Such a beautiful event.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing October 1, 2015 at 9:45 am

      Ah that’s awesome!!! It was so incredible, so glad you guys were also there!

  • Reply Ashley September 28, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Tears!! Such a blessing, and to experience it twice! Wow. Definitely be looking for some Uebbings at the NAC in the future.

    Thank you for your beautiful words about your experience. Can’t wait to read more.

  • Reply Kathleen September 29, 2015 at 7:14 am

    So amazing!! On Friday morning, my friend called with 2 tickets to the papal mass at Madison Square Garden and we rushed into NYC from NJ. It was an incredible experience! But this takes the cake 🙂 God definitely is holding your family in the palm of his hand. TWO times TWO babies have been kissed!! that’s just incredible and a blessing that only God can bestow.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing October 2, 2015 at 10:56 am

      Oh that is so awesome! My little sister was also in Madison Square Garden and said it was so incredible!

  • Reply Suzanne September 29, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing these moments with your family and Pope Francis so Beautifully – Yes, I know what you mean because I was so Fortunate to see and witness this Blessing of Divine Love with now Saint, Pope John Paul II! You helped me to relive that feeling that you can never forget! The Gates of Heaven Open Wide!

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing October 2, 2015 at 10:55 am

      It’s such a precious, tangible encounter of God’s love to be with the Holy Father, isn’t it? And I can attest that it feels the same way no matter who is wearing the white – equally powerful moment with Benedict and with Francis.

  • Reply Becky October 1, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Bawling! And I’m a Methodist!

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing October 2, 2015 at 10:54 am

      he’s got that universal Christlike appeal, doesn’t he?

      God is good.

  • Reply Kwame October 1, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Your story is so alive I feel the joy of the experience you had meeting our papa.God bless your family. May this encounter draw you closer to Christ. We in Africa are waiting for you Papa.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing October 2, 2015 at 10:48 am

      praise God! (And my husband had the pleasure of hearing your Cardinal Sarah speak at the WMOF and was so impressed. “Africa will save the Church”)

  • Reply E. K. Gaetan October 1, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Terrific description of the experience. Thank you!

  • Reply Meg October 2, 2015 at 6:39 am

    I’m so happy for you!! What an incredible moment for your family and your sweet baby!

  • Reply Cami October 2, 2015 at 8:13 am

    My husband suggested your next blog post be “How to Get Your Baby Kissed By the Pope”. 🙂

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing October 2, 2015 at 10:45 am

      lol tell Tim he’s not the first person who has requested that…

  • Reply Tito October 2, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    One has to have a heart open to the Holy Spirit in order to have this kind of experience. We are drawn to Jesus living in His Vicar and it is His love we experience. Thank you for sharing.

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  • Reply Madelyn October 12, 2015 at 10:59 am

    How funny! I just saw a link to you posted from a blogger I follow regularly, and I realized immediately that I was right there for your baby’s sweet Pope Francis moment. I stood to the right of the group of college students standing next to you. I have a picture of the moment as well. Not as great of a picture as that last one though! That one is awesome. So happy for you and your precious baby.

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