Michael Keating, 10, has had more than his share to bear.
Born premature, the Berks County boy has cerebral palsy. He can’t use his arms or legs. He suffers from seizures, and his brain cannot process what he sees or hears. He has intellectual disabilities. Last year, he had spinal fusion surgery, and in August, doctors replaced his hips. More surgeries are likely.
Yet for all that, Michael’s family says he knows joy. He loves music, he loves Shiloh, his black Lab. And he especially loves kisses, lots of kisses.
Saturday, Michael received a kiss, a gift that by now has brought forth tears around the world, a story told and retold:
How Pope Francis stopped the car that was whisking him off the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport, walked up to a boy in a wheelchair to bless him, and gently placed a kiss on his forehead.
Since then, Michael’s parents, Chuck and Kristin, both teachers, have heard from hundreds of family, friends, and former students. Today and Good Morning America want to interview them.
But more than anything else, the family from Caernarvon Township, is grateful for and awestruck by the simple, caring gesture of a humble pope.
“I feel I will be less apprehensive because I know he’s been blessed by the pope,” Kristin Keating said, referring to the additional surgeries Michael faces.
“I always hoped he would be blessed, but when it happened, it was unreal,” Chuck Keating said.
When the pope’s plane touched down, Chuck Keating was leading Bishop Shanahan High School’s Marching Eagles band. He also teaches music.
As the pope appeared in the aircraft doorway, the band members launched into the theme from Rocky. By the time Francis was being slowly driven away in his black Fiat 500L, they were playing “Ode to Joy.” But then the car turned, headed toward the band, and stopped. Francis waved to bystanders and gave the band a thumbs-up.