While the haters continue to hate on this Pope, inside (sadly) and outside the Church, he continues to impact people whose lives so need impacting:
It’s been nine days since their family’s sudden moment of grace. Nine days since Pope Francis laid his hands on their 10-year-old son.
And now it’s 6 a.m. on a Monday, and Chuck Keating is laying his own hands on Michael’s body. Chuck soothes his boy, whose limbs are stiff from severe cerebral palsy, so he can gently roll Michael over in bed to change his diaper.
“Buddy, relax,” Chuck murmurs. “Relax. Relax.”
Michael, one thin arm outstretched, starts moaning.
The Keatings’ lives are defined by moments like this one, when it’s not even dawn yet, and Michael’s feeding-tube monitor is beeping, and his twin brother, Chris, is inventing his own smoothie recipe in the kitchen, and older sister Katie is trying to find her field hockey gear. Their days unfold under the gaze of dozens of Elmo dolls, because Michael can see the color red best, and under the wooden cross above his bed, and under the words on his bedroom wall: “Everyday holds a possibility of a miracle.”
A miracle — they always believed in it. And then they got one.
They almost didn’t bring Michael. Church officials had picked the band at Bishop Shanahan High School, where Chuck is the band leader, to play at Philadelphia International Airport to welcome Pope Francis on Sept. 26.
Chuck, 45, and his wife, Kristin, 43, lifelong Catholics who met in college, were thrilled.
Kristin, a fourth-grade public school teacher, planned to take Chris and Katie, but she thought bringing Michael was out of the question.
The lift on the family’s wheelchair-accessible van does not work anymore, making it difficult to transport him. His body can get dangerously overheated any time he is outside in hot weather. He needs to be catheterized every four hours.
But then the family’s priest gave a homily at Mass about the many Philadelphians who were vowing to leave town during the papal visit because of road closures.
“He said that people shouldn’t be going out of their way to avoid the pope, they should be going out of their way to do what they can to be there,” Chuck recalls.
He told Kristin: Let’s bring Michael.
So all five Keatings met the excited band in the Bishop Shanahan parking lot at 3:45 a.m.
As Francis stepped off the plane hours later, the band played the song closest to Philadelphians’ hearts, “Gonna Fly Now” from the movie “Rocky.”
Minutes later, the 78-year-old pontiff got into a waiting car. It began to drive away — and then Francis spotted Michael. He motioned to the driver to stop the black Fiat.
And then suddenly 13-year-old Katie was taking video, and crying, as the leader of their faith strode up to her brother, kissed his head and uttered a blessing. Chuck was looking away, overcome by emotion, then turning back to shake Francis’s hand. Ten-year-old Chris was putting his hands to his head, thinking, “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.” Kristin was squeezing the pope’s hand — “so soft” — and understanding only the emotion, not the words Francis said in a language she does not speak.
A language she does not speak, a language most refuse to understand. Read the whole thing and understand… personal filtration systems are hell.
Dear God, help us to remove them.
Crossposted at Brutally Honest.