5 Logistics Lessons Pope Visit Organizers Can Learn From the Gospels

Archbishop Chaput isn't quite right: Unless you're the Son of God, logistics matter.

Pope Francis, giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com | Archbishop Chaput | Jeff Fusco

Pope Francis, giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com | Archbishop Chaput | Jeff Fusco

You can’t blame Archbishop Charles Chaput for trying. With the pope’s visit drawing near and Philadelphians still in a state of highfret over the situation, Chaput over the weekend attempted to calm the masses in an op-ed in the Inquirer.

“This is a moment of grace. Memories will be made. The World Meeting of Families will be spectacular. Nothing can stop that except our own unwillingness to take part in something extraordinary,” he wrote.

Sounds great! Only problem is, the next paragraph was this:

“Or to put it another way: Nowhere in Scripture do we find Mary, Joseph or Jesus worrying about security, transportation, or logistics.” 

Well, true — but then, if you’re the Son of God, empowered to heal the sick, turn water into wine, and make the dead walk again, logistics aren’t always necessity. They’re somewhat more important for us mere humans.  In fact, you can argue that some of the most impressive miracles of Jesus’ ministry — the stuff we’re talking about 2,000 years later — happened precisely because nobody thought ahead about critical moments. Here are five logistical lessons for big events, all taken from the Gospels:

• You always need a place for the visitors to stay.

Luke Chapter 2:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

• Big crowds can get rowdy if they can’t get to what they came for.

Mark Chapter 2:

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. 2 Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

People are going to make creative and unexpected use of infrastructure, and that could take a toll.

Luke 19: 

1 He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. 2 Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 3 was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 5 When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he came down quickly and received him with joy. 

• The visitors are going to get hungry.

Matthew Chapter 14:

15 When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 [Jesus] said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” 17 But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” 18 Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” 19 and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full. 21 Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

• Forcing people to walk when other forms of transit are more appropriate takes a real act of faith.

Matthew Chapter 14:

22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. 25 During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. 27 At once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

There was never, as far as I can tell, the Miracle of the Well-Placed, Convenient, and Always-Clean Port-a-Potty. Let’s hope the organizers of the pope’s visit don’t need divine guidance for that bit of foresight. Jesus saves, but it’s probably Mayor Nutter’s legacy on the line.

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