Yesterday, as I waited in line for credentials at Papal Visit Headquarters here, I found myself debating whether Pope John Paul II's 10-day visit to America would be on balance more a spiritual journey or a multimedia public relations extravaganza.

The Most Rev. John L. May, archbishop of St. Louis, had just declared the trip a success, one day before it began, because of the way American Catholics are "dusting cobwebs off their Catholic identity and renewing their religious commitment."

Then again, the Rev. Robert N. Lynch had just pronounced the venture the "largest media event in the history of the United States," with more than 18,700 requests for press credentials.

Then I reached the front of the line, and a sister asked me very politely: "Would you like a Bible?"

My internal debate continued. Bible. Will I need a Bible? Why didn't I think of bringing a Bible?

"Yeah," I said in a tentative voice. Then, more firmly: "Yes. I'd very much like a Bible."

The sister handed me my bible: a minute-by-minute schedule of the trip and the logistics of how it could be covered. Sometimes little things answer big questions.