Couple receives surprise tickets to see the pope

Herman and Maria Cox of Lexington received the surprise of a lifetime when their daughter, Edna Rice, presented them with two tickets to the World Meeting of Families and the papal Mass.

“She’s such a lovely girl,” Mrs. Cox said.

Rice was able to obtain the tickets at the last-minute and gave them to her parents as a joint birthday gift for their 80 and 83rd birthdays, and to honor their 58th anniversary.

Mrs. Cox said the whole week was filled with highlights and amazing experiences, and she praised everyone she came across as being filled with love and positive energy.

“There was not one bad thing that happened up there,” she said. “Everything was so beautiful, and the people were very lovely. Good people the whole way through — every nationality and every race.”

One of her personal highlights was attending Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the very same cathedral where her mother was baptized.

“And Pope Francis, he is so wonderful and good,” she said.

Mr. Cox, who is described by Kathy Schmugge as a true Southern gentleman, said he enjoyed the whole affair. The couple said they were glad the pontiff was able to visit Independence Mall, the original home of the Liberty Bell and near the hall where America’s founding documents were signed. They said it was important for Pope Francis to see the history of the United States for a different perspective on the people.

Mrs. Cox said she also learned some interesting facts about Papa Francisco, such as the tidbit that he was a bouncer in his youth, and that a baby he prayed for was declared healed six weeks later. (A couple from Arizona credits Pope Francis with healing their 3-month-old daughter’s heart condition after he held and blessed her at the Vatican in 2014.)

It was an all-around lovely experience, said Mrs. Cox, who returned home with gifts and tons of stories. Her family found one anecdote in particular very amusing.

It seems the 6- to 10-mile daily walks took their toll, and Mrs. Cox ended up catching a ride one day in the back of a police car. “She’s only had two root beers!” her husband joked with the police officer. Mrs. Cox just laughed, saying she’d never hear the end of it if her children found out.

The couple said some other highlights of the trip were hearing opera singer Andrea Bocelli perform for the pontiff, and the opportunity to venerate St. Maria Goretti at St. John the Evangelist Church.