Canonization of St. Junipero Serra-My Day with Francis-Photo Blog – EpicPew

Canonization of St. Junipero Serra-My Day with Francis-Photo Blog

Epic Author and PhD student at Catholic University of America Matt Vander Vennet had the great privilege of attending the canonization mass of St. Junipero Serra.  Here is his photo blog of the occasion.


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After a brief 1 hour and 10 minute Metro ride, I arrived at Brookland-CUA and began the 2.5 hour wait to get into campus.

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Only about 50 yards away from the yellow entrance gate, the wait would continue for another almost hour and a half.

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The wonderful people over at Love & Pizza in Brookland offered free pies to anyone who wanted them. Everyone shared. It was most appreciated!

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Finally at the entrance to the gate. Not quite there yet.

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After finally making it through the initial gate, things got faster. Probably because of this group of B.A.’s – they’ve got God connections, fo realz!

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The security gates were effective and surprisingly quick to get through.

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The view back towards the metro. There were still people waiting in line for at least another 2 hours after I got through

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The obligatory selfie as I waited to get into the security checkpoint. That thing coming out of the man’s head behind me is a temporary cell-phone tower placed on campus 2 weeks ago. It was massive.

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The view from campus was great from any vantage point. The screens were utilized throughout the day and during mass. Here you can see Pope Francis as he addresses those at St. Matthew’s before coming to Catholic University.

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The media was also present – you know – just in case this might be a big deal. This was a 10 story apparatus that was constructed on campus the week before Francis arrived.

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A view of the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The scaffolding was brilliantly covered in material specifically made to look like the stone on the outside of the basilica. The altar and his papal throne will be placed and enshrined within the basilica in perpetuity.

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These banners are set up all across campus. I’d like to snag one of these.

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The flags of Vatican City, our United States, and a flag of the District of Columbia.

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Commemorative coins designed and struck in honor of Pope Francis’s historic visit to the US. There will be bronze ones available for purchase soon. Limited quantities. Act now!

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A picture of me in front of the main altar.

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Another one that shows the scope of the seating area (not even the standing room only sections) and the immense size of the basilica. It is built in the Romanesque-Byzantine style. I believe it’s one of the 10 largest churches in the world and the largest one in the United States

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A view of the choir through the trees. Mostly made up of CUA students with various others, they produced heavenly sounds throughout the mass.

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A banner of now Saint Junipero Serra on the northeastern side of the church. The gorgeous blue background is not done justice in a photo.

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A picture of one of the giant screens erected in order to give those in the nosebleed seats a better view of the action as it unfolded.

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Fellow confreres and students (Justin and Ross) in the Church History program at CUA. These guys will make their own mark in the history of the Catholic Church, no doubt. I am blessed to know them and call them friends. It was Ross’s (right) birthday that day, too. What a birthday present!

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My ticket, program, and short biography of the Apostle to California.

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My view of the altar and basilica throughout the mass. The weather was absolutely gorgeous.

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We even had helicopters flying about to make sure we were all safe.

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The lectern was designed by students from the school of architecture on campus. Attached to the front of it is a cross made of bronze that was brought over by some of the first Catholics to settle North America. It is around 400 years old and was specially placed on the lectern in honor of this historic event.

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This shot was too cool not to share.

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The Holy Father in his open air Popemobile. In case you were wondering, the gift shop does include scale models of the Pope in the Popemobile available for purchase.

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His Holiness exuded holiness. If you look closely, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was riding shotgun in the Popemobile.

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At this point, the Pope was about 20 feet away. As he approached, I decided to gaze upon him with my own eyes, rather than snap a picture. I will keep those memories for the rest of my life.

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The Secret Service did a good job of making sure both the Pope and the crowd were safe from any threats.

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Papa and Cardinal Wuerl enjoying the company of the crowd before the mass.

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Preparing for mass to begin. If you look closely, the bishops, who processed in only moments before, are making ready for the Holy Father to emerge from the basilica. Inside the basilica were the many priests and seminarians who were greeted by the Holy Father before he himself vested. The mass was mostly conducted in Spanish.

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Just a couple of cardinals making their way to their seats as mass was about to commence.

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Papa seated on his papal throne, also designed by CUA’s school of architecture students. The papal master of ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, is seated next to Pope Francis.

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After the declaration of Junipero Serra as a saint, his relics were brought forth and presented to Pope Francis.

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Francis giving his homily, in Spanish. He exhorted us to go forth and preach the Good News with great joy. We are missionaries in virtue of our baptisms and are all called to share the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, just as St. Junipero Serra did in the 18th century. Full English text of his homily can be found here.

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Pope Francis about to consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Francis as he sits and prays his own thanksgiving while the rest of the crowd presents themselves for communion. The yellow and white umbrellas are the lines for reception of the Eucharist. There were also red umbrellas signifying the gluten-free communion wafer option. Interesting.

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The Holy Father begins his descent from the throne as mass concludes. Soon he will impart his apostolic blessing, in Latin, to the crowd.

Following the mass, Pope Francis offered the Rosary with the seminarians and priests in the basilica. The nuns, of course, were media darlings. Everyone loves nuns in habits.

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One final look at the altar and the east portico. Within this crowd also included such dignitaries as Vice-President Biden, Justice Sotomayor, and even Jeb Bush. I did not see Stephen Colbert. Next time.

For the first mass of canonization held on American soil, it was a sight to behold and an experience to remember. For an American pope to canonize an apostle to America in America is truly meaningful. To be in the presence of such holiness is a humbling experience. The Lord is doing great things through this Pope.

Let us all pray for Pope Francis and ask the newest saint, Junipero Serra, to intercede as well.


St. Junipero Serra, ora pro nobis! VIVA IL PAPA FRANCISCUS!


**All photos here taken by Matt Vander Vennet, 9/23/2015.