Nationals Park Becomes a Church
Well, it looks like the pope won't be strolling down Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk when he enters Nationals Park to celebrate Mass on Thursday.
Then he'll exit, change into vestments for the Mass and re-emerge.
This afternoon, workers were covering the field and starting to erect the stage, which is in the centerfield area. (In other words, if you ended up with tickets behind home plate, you're kind of far away from the action, unlike a Nats' game.)
Wuerl vows that everything will be ready.
Advertising (even the big stuff flanking the jumbotron) will be covered up and, no, of course they won't be selling beer on Thursday.
Those with the closest seats are the two sections flanking the stage. Stage right will be the choirs and stage left will be high school and college students. There are also about 5,000 seats on the field. (Warning: if you know you have a seat on the field, eat a huge breakfast. You won't have access to the snack bars and the little snack they're going to give you when you arrive won't go very far).
"When the Mass starts, I think we're going to recognize that we have been successful at taking this venue and making it a holy space--a sacred space," said a beaming Wuerl. He spent yesterday afternoon touring the site. "I think you are going to see that Nationals Park became a church--if only for one day."
But before that are lots of logistics. Wuerl pledges that they can get 46,000 people through Communion in less than 20 minutes. Three-hundred deacons will be stationed around the park, so Catholics won't have to leave their section to receive the body and blood of Christ.
Before the Mass, there will be plenty of entertainment on the Jumbotron, starting at 5:30 a.m. That includes videos from local folks as well as 60-second videos from the dozens of dioceses around the country. Gates will open at 5:15 a.m.
To "settle everyone down," says Wuerl, a music program by the four choirs will start about an hour before the pope arrives. Snack bars will be closed during the Mass.
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