Pope Benedict XVI at the general audience March 30, 2011
Anticipating our Papal Audience with great excitement, we raced to St. Peter's with throngs of pilgrims in the early morning on Wednesday. Our seats, in the "speciale" zone, were up on the platform not far from Pope Benedict XVI's chair. The wait from arriving at our seats to waving at Papa was about two hours; the weather was beautiful and our neighbors in the crowd shared our enthusiasm (some shared sunscreen, and others offered to email us their photos taken with a D80+Zoom). Once the audience began, our appreciation for the great honor of being present magnified. The holy Gospel of St. John was procliamed in Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Portugese, and Polish; and the Holy Father's teachings were also given in each of these languages (condensed in all but Italian). Our neighbors in the seats included a contingent from French L'Arche. The unbridled enthusiasm of one their young men was refreshing, and totally unprecictable (Joseph's quote)
After praying the Lord's Prayer together (chanted Pater Noster) and receiving our apostolic blessing, many of the front rows began to empty out. We rushed the stage filled in the gaps, and found ourselves at the very front row to watch Pope Benedict XVI greeting a line of guests, including a very young boy who appreared to be a cancer patient and a long line of cardinals. Still at the front row when Pope Benedict began his motored exit, we waved and even made eye contact! Lifelong memories to be sure...
Family picnic after the audience, back at our flat in the garden
Riding a wave of joy and fulfilled hopes, we enjoyed a picnic lunch in our patio garden at the flat. Sharing our impressions of the Papal Audience and reliving the exciting event in the comfort of our home in Rome kept the afterglow burning bright. Lunch time discussion also included a few decisions about how best to use our remaining days with Zachary before his early return to the US for classes. Renting a car turns out to be cheaper than 5 train tickets to Assisi, so after lunch we visited the car rental agency at Termini station in Rome, en route to St. Paul's Outside the Walls.
Amazing art at St. Paul's, Rome
Metro stop at St. Paul's Basilica
Entering St. Paul's at the exact time an English Mass began in a side chapel, we joined the pilgrims from El Paso, Texas, for the celebration. In white vestments rather than violet (Lent), the priest said a Mass remembering the Conversion of St. Paul. The Gospel reading was from Mark: go out to all the world and tell the good news! He encouraged us to be bold in sharing our faith and living the Gospel.
Take a virtual tour of this outstanding basilica here.
- Mile-long lines at the Vatican museum disappear on a Papal audience morning.
- A high school band entertained the crowd with Amazing Grace, followed by theme songs from Indiana Jones and Blues Brothers in St. Peter's Square before the Pope's arrival.
- Our Holy Father, and shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI, captured our hearts!