Zac, Joseph and Peter in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, near the altar of St. Peter's Chair where Latin Mass was celebrated Sunday morning.
Our new friends: seminarians from North American College, John from Joliet and Joseph from Tulsa.An alarm at 7:30AM may not seem early, but when you didn't get into bed until after midnight, and you're not yet set to local time, 7:30 is a shock to the system. As previously mentioned, our bathroom sharing skills are lacking, or we're just plain slow at getting ready for bed; whatever the cause, we were up way too late and this day's rise and shine came all too abruptly.
First stop: St. Peter's Basilica. One stop up on the Metro, we didn't need any maps to direct us to St. Peter's; there we gobs of people moving in that direction, like the current of a river. Many had high hopes of visiting the Vatican Museum, which was free today (the 4th Sunday), but we quickly realized that the length of the line was prohibitive for us. St. Peter's awaited, and the excitement mounted as we weaved in and out of the massive crowd, staying in single file most of the way for maximum mobility.
Stunned, awed, moved to tears and struck silent by the exceptional sights inside St. Peters, we headed for the main altar, behind which the Sunday Latin Mass would soon begin. Only those attending Mass were allowed past the checkpoint holding back throngs of tourists. Once inside the designated worship space, our awe multiplied as we walked alongside the main altar, which is directly over St. Peter's tomb. Calling us from above, the Bernini dove (Holy Spirit) window in the apse, was breathtaking; directly above the Throne of St. Peter, supported by four Church Fathers (a sign of Bishops' call to support the pope).
Kneeling in prayer to prepare for the Holy Mass, we were approached by a uniformed basilica usher. He politely asked us where we were from, smiled, and asked us if we would like to represent the congregation by bringing up the gifts at Mass. Would we? We would! We did! Escorted to the very front row, given a quick (efficient and direct) rehearsal, we were prepared for Mass in a most unpredictable manner. A true gentleman, loving husband and father, Tim opted to let the three boys and I take up the gifts, as there were only 4 spots available. The Latin Mass was truly captivating; with an extraordinarily sublime choir, dozens of con celebrating priests plus a cardinal in the sanctuary. Of course the highlight was receiving our Lord in Holy Communion in such a memorable location, in the presence of the heavenly hosts of angels and saints...
Praying at the site of St. Peter's crucifixion, another site reserved for peace and quiet and off limits to tourists, our hearts were moved by the images of St. Peter's torture. We also realized our hunger pains were growing, and in order to eat we had to exit the basilica. In St. Peter's Square out front, we were greeted by two young American seminarians (in collars) who visited with us, giving us many great tips for future visits to St. Peter's. Also suggesting we depart the general area before buying food, they gave us directions to a nearby neighborhood where better priced and better tasting lunches could be found. Parting gifts of Miraculous Medals blessed by Pope Benedict were the icing on the cake of our first visit to St. Peter's.