Two days ago, if you had asked me if I thought I would ever see a Pope in my lifetime, I would say, “Probably not.” But today, June 8, 2012, I can now say that I have seen Pope Benedict XVI twice. I never imagined I would get to see the Pope on this trip; it was not on the itinerary. But,during our tour of the Vatican on Tuesday, we learned that the Pope would be making an appearance for prayer in St. Peter’s Sqaure the following day (Wednesday). Immediately, I was dying to go. I was not about to miss out on free admission to see, hear and pray with the Pope one of the few times I may make the journey to Rome in my lifetime. And, thank goodness, we were able to make it work. We had to coordinate with our small groups and postpone seeing a few attractions, but Mollie, Zach, Conor, Monica, and I made it to see the Pope. It was amazing. He rolled in on his Pope Mobile and circled the audience and came no more than 20 FEET IN FRONT OF US! Ahh, I can’t even choose words to describe it. It was unbelievable. We then heard a scripture reading in five different languages (including English!) and then listened to the Pope’s sermon in… was it Latin or Italian? I’m not sure; needless to say, I didn’t comprehend it. But it was so worth going.
Wait. It gets better. We all joked that Mollie was going to faint due to excitement at the Vatican, but she made it through the Tuesday tour on her own two feet. However, at the Pope’s Wednesday appearance, I legitimately thought Mollie’s time to faint had come when she spotted a board that said the Pope would be celebrating Mass for the public the following day (Thursday) at 7 p.m. in Rome. NO WAY. How could we get so lucky TWICE? Yet again, the arrangements were a challenge, but Zach, Mollie, and I indeed made it to San Giovanni Church for Mass with the Pope. The church was nearly off the map – way southeast of the city center- and it took a bus ticket, following a group of nuns, and asking four strangers for directions, but we made it to the beautiful old church in time for the outdoor Mass. I’m bad at estimating numbers, but there were probably 400 priests in attendence, a choir of 50, 7 videographers, a police helicopter, and a public audience of 1,000. We weren’t able to stay past the homily because we had to get back to town to meet the group for dinner; but the 50 minutes we stayed were absolutely amazing. We had to stand the whole time and were about 40 yards from the altar, but we had a great view. Mass was so much better than the Wednesday prayer because, although both were in a language foreign to us, we were able to follow along with the Mass because the celebration is practiced the exact same way all around the world, and experiencing that was indescribable- the idea that I can go anywhere and find my Church, my religion, people who believe what I believe though they may not speak the language I speak. The two experiences were incredible, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight without blogging about them. So, here I am at 1:05 a.m., still needing to shower and journal and get some sleep. But now you know. God bless!