By Joseph Iemma
He may be the most influential man on Earth. He is a man of God and a man of faith, but most importantly, a man of humility.
The 266th Pope arrived in the United States on the 266th day of the year, Sept. 23. America is home to nearly 80 million self-identified Catholics. According to an ABC poll, 92 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the pope.
However, in a country where enrollment in Catholic schools has been on decline since the 60s, and only 24 percent of Catholics attend church weekly — a percentage that was once as high as 55 percent in 1965, according to a Georgetown study on Catholicism in America, from 2015 — the question raises itself: How does a papal visit affect America?
To start, we live in America, the hardest working country on Earth. This is not an opinion; it’s a fact. Americans take less vacation days, work longer hours, and retire later in life than any other country in the industrialized world. This includes countries such as France, England, Germany, and China. With that said, in capitalist America, religion, typically takes a backseat due to our jobs, families, and our hard work to make ends meet. It’s an ugly truth, but it’s the truth, nonetheless.
“I used to go to church every week growing up,” said Lauren Archer, a sophomore Chemistry major, who’s also Catholic. “Don’t get me wrong, I still keep God close to my heart, but am I close to church and actually ‘practicing’ my faith like how I used to? Not quite.”
When asked if the Pope’s visit to America changed her perspective on her faith and how she practices, Archer said, “It did open my eyes. It showed me that if one man can devote his entire life to God, then why can’t we just give an hour a week?”
“I played every snap like it was my last,” said Tristan Quarless, a senior Communications major, who was the former wide receiver for his high school football team. “Literally, all I knew was on speed. I went over the middle for a pass, caught the ball, turned it up the sideline, and then I felt like I got kicked in the back of my leg. I fell, looked around to see who did it, but no one was around.” At that moment, Quarless had torn his Achilles in his right foot. “It was a terrible day, but that day brought me closer to my roots, and my faith,” Quarless said.
Quarless described the Pope’s visit as an awesome and uplifting one. “When you hear a humble man like the Pope speak,” he said, “it humbles you; allowing you to put everything into perspective, and make you want to live a better life.”
I can vouch for Quarless. Life comes with ups and downs. Even at the beginning of a semester when you’re hit with schoolwork, trying to balance a class schedule, work, and a social life, it can get pretty challenging.
However, the Pope’s visit to New York affected me greatly. Although I was not able to see him face-to-face, just knowing the Pope was in America, in my city, brought a feeling of reassurance; a feeling of reassurance that didn’t just resonate within me, but within the entire region, and Catholics all across the country.