Free for all

Go to Mass at most churches and you may get a copy of the parish bulletin as you exit.

But at Nationals Park yesterday, Massgoers could, if they so chose, get a copy of the 72-page special papal preview edition of the Catholic Standard, the Archdiocese of Washington’s weekly newspaper. And, if they were so inclined, get a 60-page expanded edition of El Pregonero, the Spanish-language newspaper published by the Washington Archdiocese. At the ballpark entrances, there were plenty of people wearing red jackets bearing the logo of the Washington leg of Pope Benedict XVI’s U.S. visit, offering the newspapers to the ticketed faithful, and there were several 12″x12″x9″ boxes filled with copies of either paper so that supplies wouldn’t run out.

But wait, there’s more! Even bigger boxes — they were the mammoth “Office Movers” boxes that require more than one person to pick up and lug around — were filled with the papal Mass version of “goodie bags” for the faithful, with additional volunteers distributing them by the armful. Inside each bag was:

— The April issue of Catholic Digest magazine, a “special commemorative edition” (it said so on the cover) marking Pope Benedict’s impending visit.

— The May issue of Magnificat magzine, which contains morning prayer, evening prayer and Mass texts for each day of the month.

— The “papal Visit 2008” issue of Living With Christ magazine, with Mass texts for April 17 and 20, the dates of Pope Benedict’s U.S. stadium Masses.

— A pitch for Sirius Satellite Radio from the Catholic Channel, a Sirius channel operated by the Archdiocese of New York.

— A subscription offer for the weekly English edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

— An order form from for “commemorative merchandise,” that is, souvenirs.

— A miniature Vatican flag.

“Oh!” said one man walking along the 100-level concourse of Nationals Park a good two hours before Mass began. “I should have brought my papal flag with me.”

He evidently hadn’t peered yet into his goodie bag. But from the looks of things on a number of occasions later in the morning, he and 46,000 or so other worshipers had found one inside their bags.


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