NEW YORK — Now that Pope Francis has arrived in the United States, thousands of people are traveling to the East Coast to try to catch a glimpse of him. It is not as easy as it sounds though: You have to have a ticket. The tickets are free, but they have been gone for weeks.
For many Catholics, seeing the pope is considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“There’s something about the pope that brings a different message and it brings it to the young people like me,” Saul Mejia-Carrillo said.
Mejia, a 24-year-old restaurant cashier from Littleton, said it has always been his dream to see the pope, but he has never had enough money to go to Rome. When Pope Francis planned a trip to the U.S., Mejia said he cleared out his savings account and bought a plane ticket to New York.
“I’m by myself. I don’t know anybody here. This is my first time ever in New York,” Mejia said.
His trip did not go as planned. He did not know he needed a ticket to get close enough to see Pope Francis.
“When I got here, I was really mad. For me, it felt like the pope was the public leader. The pope is for the public. For the church. For the people. And they were making it private,” Mejia said.
He posted his frustrations on his Facebook page, saying “It seems impossible.”
“My eyes just got teary, very watery and my contact fell and I just started crying even more because of frustration,” Mejia said. “I felt hopeless. I didn’t know what to do.”
Little did he know, someone in the crowd was watching.
“This lady just walked up to me and hands me her ticket,” Mejia said.
It was a stranger named Valentina.
“She said I deserved it better than she did. That I’m a young man and that’s who the pope is here for,” Mejia said.
He said it feels like a miracle.
“She’s an angel,” Mejia said. “She kept saying it was God. It wasn’t me. It was God. God wants him to be in here. He’s gonna be in here.”
Mejia said the act renewed his faith in humanity.
“Call this fate, call this a blessing, call this luck,” he said.
And it strengthened his faith in God.
“I got to see [Pope Francis]. It was very brief but it was enough. It was all I needed. I can’t ask for more. It was all I needed,” Mejia said.
The woman who gave up her ticket to Mejia ended up getting another ticket donated to her, so she still saw the pope.