When the Last Pope Came He Came First to Boston

first Pope ever to come to the States

When the first Pope ever came to the States in the person of John Paul II he came first to Boston and said Mass on the Boston Common and boy did it  pour – just rained cats and dogs on that patch of real estate where autonomous powerful women were hung for witches, where over the centuries assembled the Redcoats and the famous evangelists, the America Firsters and the Sacco-Vanzetti supporters, the Legalization of Birth Control advocates and even little Judy Garland before a crowd of 100,000 just two years before her death at 47, pre-embalmed as she was by the sauce by then, poor lambie.


Everyone loved that John Paul II because he was so young-seeming and athletic; because he looked like he might have played the lead role in one of the Tarzan movies from the old days.


I was 30 when he came. I could have gone to see him and would have, in a heartbeat, and brought my two babies in their strollers too, but the little one was SO little and still subject to such fits of supper-hour suffering I just couldn’t chance it. It was that and the torrents of rain that kept me home.


In a way though I feel as if I did see John Paul, up close even. I say this because my Seventh Grade boyfriend Perry “Mike” McDonough was by then a Secret Service agent and the very first person in the country to touch that great man’s hand when he clambered out of the plane at Logan airport. Mike was about the cutest middle schooler you ever saw, with wavy blond hair and eyes of a fish-tank blue. We stopped dating in Ninth Grade but 25 years later rekindled a connection that conjured those early years back in living color thanks mostly to Mike’s amazing memory. We see each other maybe once a year, going to reunions or concerts or visiting one another’s houses with our respective mates and I just love him, both for his positive outlook and his faithfulness of heart.


So here on this warm East coast Friday a toast: to Former Agent McDonough, now retired, and the Secret Service too and any Pope at all with the courage to come to see his flock here in the land of the Freethinkers; here in the land where something like 80% of the people polled say they don’t believe in Hell but they just KNOW there’s a Heaven and they’re prett-y darn sure they’re going there. And now back up to this picture of our last Pontiff back in ’79, doing for the first time here in the States what he always when his plane landed, with my old friend Mike to his right, looking simultaneously both fiercely alert, highly tuned-in and as sweetly humble as a shepherd at the Manger.



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