How to flee the city over pope weekend and still be a good Catholic

     Head to DC to check out the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Victoria Lipov/

    Head to DC to check out the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Victoria Lipov/

    Even the big man himself wouldn’t blame you for wanting to get out of town.It’s likely that he’d nod in approval of your desire to spend Pope Francis’ Philadelphia visit somewhere else, as he looks down on the million-plus souls who’ll descend on our tiny big city over the course of this weekend. Luckily, you’ve got options. Here’s how to flee Philadelphia while Pope Francis is in town and still be a good Catholic.


    Do good

    Find a service project in your neighborhood (shelters are always in need of help), spend time cheering up sick kids by baking sweet treats at the Ronald McDonald Houses in Baltimore, Hershey, or Central Jersey, or give up an afternoon of football watching to be together as a family in the kitchen making casseroles for Catholic Charity’s Our Daily Bread Hot Meal Program and then drop off the meals at one of a number of parishes in Baltimore.

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    At home, use the last weekend of September to clean out closets and your children’s toy boxes to gather supplies to donate to an organization like Cradles to Crayons, which serves the underprivileged in our own community every single day of the year. Have a yard sale and donate the proceeds to your church or to a local family in need of financial assistance.

    Spending Pope Francis’ visit out of town serving others or at home helping your community is not only a great way to avoid the congestion in Philadelphia but it’s also a superb way to be a great Catholic in the process.

    Visit a religious site

    You’ll need a miracle to get near any Philadelphia church, so leave Philly behind and take in the sights and sounds at some of the most beautiful churches, shrines and cathedrals in America that are within an easy day trip drive.

    Start by attending Mass, saying confession or lighting a few candles at the impressive Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. It’s not only the largest Catholic church in North America (and one of the largest in the world), it’s also home to the largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art on the planet. Having already played host to Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, the National Shrine makes the perfect pilgrimage for a good Catholic while Pope Francis is in Philly. Head to the National Cathedral while you are there. 

    Closer to home, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown also ranks as one of the top 10 Catholic shrines in the U.S. and is a gorgeous place to attend Mass while Pope Francis visits.

    You can also head to Baltimore to take in the splendor of The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was the first such cathedral in America and was built over 200 years ago.

    If all else fails, you could simply gather the family around the laptop and stand in awe of Gaudi’s perpetually under-construction Catalan Roman Catholic masterpiece, Sagrada Familia. As one of the most magnificent places on Earth, it’s often very crowded (but still not nearly as crowded as Philadelphia is bound to be).

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