Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? I hope you’ll understand why when we get to the end.
We were up at 4:45AM, again, we all know my spackle and hair process. It’s detailed. We had to meet in the lobby at 6AM for a bagged breakfast (I saved my pizza from lunch the day before, because, pizza!) We walked to the barricade entrance gate for the general Papal Audience.
We weren’t going to be let in until 9:15AM or so. We waited at the gate. I was, and have been worried for our Pope. He’s been traveling and living a very hectic pace, so I prayed a rosary for our group and for his health. Remember this…
We watched the St. Peter’s Square employees get the area ready. Think screwing and unscrewing of barricades to make lanes for the already overwhelming line forming behind us.
It was time to go in. We had to unzip our bags and prepare to run toward the best seats after. As one of the more energized of the group, I was given direction to “hit it”, once I passed through security. Like a theme park ride, they let only a few people in at a time to check bags. The guard was distracted by a pilgrim asking a question when he let his arms out to say “this is the cut off”. The tips of his fingers hit me in the waist. I thought, “does this mean I wait or run?”
What do you think?
I hauled it!!! I made it to the VERY front of St. Peter’s, one of two or three of us to make it and we began reserving 43 seats up against the right-hand side barricade to have a better chance of seeing the Pope drive by.
And we waited for the Pope. We had time…a lot of time. Time I refused to waste.
Just behind them were people of special needs along with their caretakers. As I am sure you can understand, I did not take pictures of them to show you. I will express that they were joyful and I could not stop smiling at them. Their caretakers were the epitome of the word. Gently asking questions on their behalf for information, giving them sips of water and talking to one another.
He was so close. About 10 feet away from me. Ten feet. That’s all. I was right where I needed to be. I couldn’t have gotten a better seat. Remember my rosary? See how he is looking right at me? I called out, “Papa Francesco, I prayed for you this morning!!” and he looked directly at me. I have the entire procession recorded around the corner and just past me. It was completely exhilarating.
We watched as he stopped and kissed babies and small children. Some cried, others were mesmerized and still others were crying. When he received a crying child, he had a look that can only be described as an intimate “I’m sorry I don’t mean to scare you” look on his face as he passed his hand over their cheek to try and soothe them.
We couldn’t understand his reflection, as it’s said in Italian, so I will have to research that later. You could tell when he was struck by something scripted and wanted to expand on it. He spoke with his hands then, and his face lit up. It was like he was talking to you over a table with some wine and cheese. Just, you know, talking.
We went to St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran as well as the Holy Steps – the steps Jesus walked on after being persecuted. As a devotion, people go up the stairs on their knees and say an Our Father on each of the 28 steps.
I would love to share more pictures with you, but the connection is slow this evening and I have to be up and off by 6AM.
I will leave you with this. I prayed for anyone who asked me to, here at St. Mary Major leaving all of your intentions at this statute of Mary. This statue is meant to depict peace, and I hope all of you feel that.