WASHINGTON — Floridian Bill Young traveled 22 hours on bus and waited among thousands for several hours near the Washington Monument just to briefly glimpse Pope Francis as he wheeled past aboard the famous Popemobile last week.
But after the 62-year-old Young waved his Vatican flag in the direction of the Holy Father on Wednesday, he showed no sign of regret over investing so much time for only a minute or two of reward.
“He [Pope Francis] looked at you and you felt, wow. One of the greatest experiences in my life,” said Young, a Eucharistic minister that helps distribute communion in mass.
The pope took a historic tour throughout the nation’s capital during a three-day visit that started Tuesday evening and included an address in front of the U.S. Congress, a first in American history. Devout Catholics as well as non-Catholic pope fans from across the world traveled to Washington for a series of speeches, parades and prayer services.
The parade that Young attended lasted only 30 minutes as the pope and a line of accompanying Secret Service members and police took a square route, several blocks long, in an area behind the White House.
It was not Young’s first experience near a pope. Young had the opportunity to see both Pope Benedict XVI, who held the position starting in 2005 and ended in 2013 upon resignation, and Pope John Paul II who died in 2005.
Bill Young, who lives north of Miami in Cooper City, is the host of Prayer N’ Lunch, a daily prayer podcast that focuses on patron saints and offers listeners a mid-day prayer to go along with lunch. He has been self-publishing the podcast for several years in his home and on the road.
After Wednesday’s papal parade, Young immediately got set up on WiFi in a Holiday Inn in Maryland, where he spent the week and recorded another edition of Prayer N’ Lunch. If he fails to keep up the daily pace, Young finds that his audience begins to drop off.
He will be back in Florida after a long bus trip that was organized by the Archdiocese of Miami. Along for the ride with Young were many Spanish-speaking Catholics who helped fill out the diverse crowd cheering for Pope Francis.
The pope left Washington on Thursday afternoon and headed to New York City before wrapping up his U.S. tour in Philadelphia on Sunday.