Rome - Third Time's a Charm

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Italian holiday continued after we left Sorrento by train and headed back to the Eternal City. We arrived late at night, just in time for gelato and a nighttime stroll around St. Peter's Square. Our hostel was literally across the street from the Vatican wall and a five minute walk to St. Peter's! I love going to St. Peter's at night, it's so quiet and peaceful and if the Pope is still awake you can see the lights on in his apartment windows. I was excited to see that large photo banners from Blessed John Paul's beatification were still hanging among the colonnades in the square. We hit the ground running the next morning, literally. We had tickets to the 10:30am Wednesday papal audience but since our train arrived so late the night before we had to pick them up at the US Bishop's office before the audience. We picked up our tickets around 9:30am, with the nun there advising us to get back to the Vatican as soon as possible. Since we were running so late, I was convinced we wouldn't get seats. We made it to St. Peter's and got held up in security because Alicia had a metal mirror in her purse she had forgotten about that was setting the metal detectors off. In all the confusion and bustle she dropped her ticket on the ground. We got through the square and up to the seats when she realized her ticket was gone. By this point I was really frustrated and was like "whatever, they probably won't check our tickets again let's just go get seats." Thankfully, she went back and found her ticket on the ground because we ended up needing them!

No zoom, the Pope is sitting under the overhang

All the seats close to the aisle were taken so I began to walk into the last section of seats when the Swiss Guard waved me over and told me I couldn't sit there. He told me to go see the next Swiss Guard. The next guard waved us on and we kept passing guards until we were up on the stage with the Pope!! I've now been to Rome three times in one calendar year, and each time I've gotten progressively closer to the Pope. Alicia and I couldn't believe it. We were sure we would be too late for good seats and we ended up with the BEST seats in the entire square. The Pope was seated like 20 feet from us. Sure enough, when I looked at my ticket again I noticed it was for special/reserved seating. I have no idea how we got such good tickets, other than that God must love me, haha. Many thanks to Sister Mary Christa at the US Bishop's Office in Rome! We ended up sitting next to seminarians from Sacred Heart in Detroit who knew one of our seminarians from Kokomo. He had actually been to Mass at St. Patrick's last summer. Matt Lauer was there at the audience with Archbishop Dolan to film a special segment for the Today Show. He looked quite nervous as he prepared to meet the pope after the audience. After the audience Alicia went and visited the Roman Forum and Colosseum while I rested at the hostel. By then I was burnt out from all the Eurotrip planning, so I asked Alicia to come up with a list of everything she wanted to do. At that point I was so tired I didn't even really care that I was back in Rome - I just wanted to sleep. We had dinner in Trastevere and called it a night.

Waving to pilgrims
Matt Lauer and Archbishop Dolan from NYC 

Viva il Papa!
Thursday while Alicia was at the Vatican Museums I wandered into St. Peter's Square where the June 2nd episode of the Today Show was being filmed. I hung around for a while and creeped on Matt Lauer and Al Roker. You can see most of the show here, as well as me waving in the background. Despite having been in Rome two previous times I was able to see and do several new things. By providence I wandered into the Church of the Holy Spirit & Divine Mercy Shrine at 3pm, the hour of mercy. The church was packed with faithful Italians and pilgrims praying the Divine Mercy chaplet. At the end of the chaplet I ended up in a line to venerate a relic that I think was of St. Faustina. They also have a relic of Blessed John Paul II! At the Basilica of the Holy Apostles I saw the tombs of the apostles Philip and James.

Al Roker doing the weather
Matt Lauer & co preparing to go on air
At dinner that evening Alicia and I each ordered a half liter of wine. I was ordering based off the prices since I didn't know how much liquid  1/4 or 1/2 liter was. A glass of wine is usually 4 euro, which is how much the 1/2 liter was. Turns out a 1/2 liter of wine per person is a LOT of wine and we drank it all. St. Thomas Aquinas said to drink to the point of hilarity, and we did just that. When in Rome... ;)

Friday morning we woke up early to be at St. Peter's Basilica before all the tourists flood in. Since I was last in Rome, Blessed John Paul's tomb has been moved up into the main part of the church into the altar next to the Pieta. The security guards were reluctant to let us near his tomb to pray (JPII was the people's pope, so why are guards keeping people away from his tomb?!), but we finally were able to kneel down and pray for a good 30 minutes. We were hoping there would be another Mass said on his tomb, but it didn't happen so we went to Mass at the St. Joseph chapel on the other side of the Basilica. Alicia and I probably spent two hours looking at everything and identifying all the altars and statues - it was glorious! I was able to really enjoy the beauty and splendor of St. Peter's without all the noise and commotion of tour groups.

Son light?! ;)
Altar above the tomb of St. Peter

Priests celebrating Mass on Bl. John Paul's tomb
reminds me of the three Frs Dudzinski :)
Tomb of Blessed John Paul II
Me :)
During the afternoon we climbed the dome of St. Peter's and saw the famous statue of St. Teresa in Ecstasy by Bernini in Santa Maria del Vittoria. Bernini also designed the baldachino over the altar in St. Peter's. It was 551 steps to the top of the cupola, enough exercise for the whole month, but the view was incredible! Besides seeing out over the square and all of Vatican grounds, you get to see the Basilica from inside the dome.

You are Peter...
Inside the Vatican walls
Piazza San Pietro

See the people up there? That's where we climbed!
The statues on the front of the Basilica, they are HUGE!
Bernini's statue of St. Teresa of Avila was completed in 1652. It depicts a moment described in her autobiography when she had a vivid vision of an angel piercing her heart with a golden arrow, causing her immense joy and pain. The statue was incredible, I could have sat in the church for an hour or two just looking at it. I think I like it even better than Michaelangelo's Pieta :O

"I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying." -St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa in Ecstasy
We left Rome Friday night for a late flight back to Budapest. We had to run through the train station to get to the airport train and literally made it on the train with two minutes to spare. Close call! We had two days in Budapest to sleep and recoup before my family arrived. Coming up next: being a tourist in my own city with Alicia and my family and our trip to Krakow, Poland.

In the words of FTD, until next time, "be good, be holy, and love the Lord!" :)


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