+JMJ+I'm sure (or, I'd like to think) that some of you have noticed that I didn't post on my blog yesterday. It is true, I was not blogging last night; rather, I was passed out across my made bed, still dressed from the day, hat and shoes still on. No one took a picture, so you'll just have to trust me on this. It probably wasn't pretty anyway.
After eight hours of sleep and two caffe macchiatos, I was a brand new person this morning. Yay! We toured St. Lawrence this morning. St. Lawrence, St. Stephen, St. Justin Martyr, and Blessed Pope Pius IX are all buried there! It's one of the seven pilgrimage Churches in Rome. On our way, we passed the Colosseum. That's still on the to do list!
Now, let's talk about yesterday (Wednesday). Normally, I have class in the morning and evening on Wednesday; yesterday was an exception. Due to the unique circumstances of Pope Benedict XVI's announcement of his intention to renounce the office of the papacy on the 28th of February, our program director cancelled classes so that we could attend the Pope's Wednesday audience and the Mass he would celebrate for Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season in the Church. Pope Benedict XVI will only have two more Wednesday audiences and the Ash Wednesday Mass was his last scheduled papal Mass!
A Wednesday papal audience is basically consists of the following: part of one of the Gospels is read, the pope addresses the pilgrims gathered on a topic related to the Gospel that was read. This first address is given in Italian. He follows this with shorter messages in various languages for the pilgrims who have come from all over the world. These messages are typically a summary of the longer message he gave in Italian, but not always.
We left at 6am to get in line for the audience, which started at 10:30am. Amazingly, we got there around 7am and were the first ones in line! Our RD was with us and she said that the NEVER happens, that there is always a substantial line by 7am! Such a blessing! We spent our time waiting making reading, talking, and making rosaries. I brought a bunch of rosary cord with me and the other students have picked up the trade very quickly! Our time spent waiting was well spent and even enjoyable.
|Our group, waiting for Pope Benedict!|
At the beginning of the audience, when Pope Benedict came out, the crowd went wild! Everyone was cheering, shouts of "We love you, Papa!" were coming from everywhere in the room, some people were even crying. Everyone was so happy to see the Holy Father! He was happy to see us too. He began his address by commenting on his decision to resign from the papacy and thanked, so genuinely, the Church for their prayers. This is what he said, definitely worth taking a moment to read:
"As you know, I have decided – thank you for your kindness – to renounce the ministry which the Lord entrusted to me on 19 April 2005. I have done this in full freedom for the good of the Church, after much prayer and having examined my conscience before God, knowing full well the seriousness of this act, but also realizing that I am no longer able to carry out the Petrine ministry with the strength which it demands. I am strengthened and reassured by the certainty that the Church is Christ’s, who will never leave her without his guidance and care. I thank all of you for the love and for the prayers with which you have accompanied me. Thank you; in these days which have not been easy for me, I have felt almost physically the power of prayer – your prayers – which the love of the Church has given me. Continue to pray for me, for the Church and for the future Pope. The Lord will guide us."Here's the rest of the text of the address he gave, in which he focuses on the Lenten season we have just begun. Take a look!
Pope Benedict also blessed all who attended the audience, their families, and any religious items the pilgrims had brought with them! Thank you, Papa Benedict!
|Pope Benedict at his Papal audience! |
(There was a huge crowd of high school students from a Dominican high school in France sitting in front of our group)
After the audience, we took a short break to find some lunch, then, at 1:00pm, the waiting began! Mass was scheduled to start at 5:00pm. The doors to St. Peter's Basilica (where Mass was to be held) were scheduled to open for Mass at 3:30pm. The guards closed the basilica at 1:30pm so they could set up for Mass. This meant that the line for Mass would officially start at 1:30pm. So we got in line at 1:00pm. Our group was in the very front of the line!!! While waiting, I got a little bit of reading done, found a Nashville Dominican Sister, and made a German friend named Sebastian. Ash Wednesday was the perfect day for so much waiting; it taught me a lot about the anticipatory time of penance we should have during Lent! In line, looking towards Mass, most especially the Eucharist, with Pope Benedict; in Lent, looking towards heaven!
When the guard opened the gates at 3:30, it was madness! Let me tell you, when Mass with the Holy Father is at stake, those nuns can push! Everyone burst through the gate like water would burst a dam. I ran like I've never run before (the gate is all the way at the back of St. Peter's square, so you have to go all the way up to the entrance, hence the running).
We ended up getting good seats, about the same as what we got last time with our special section tickets (there were no tickets for this Mass). But then, we got even better seats. Here's what happened: I was sitting next to our RD, who knows Italian. She heard a group of people ask one of the Swiss guards if they could move up to some empty seats in the important-reserved-for-dignitaries section. Apparently, the guard answered something to the effect of, "Not dressed like that, you can't." The group that had asked were dressed in jeans and sneakers, etc. My RD and I were dressed in nice skirts, sweaters, and dress shoes. She asked the guard if we could move up, and he said we could! We weren't in the front row, but we were in the front section in front of the altar, not on the side! We could see everything, the whole altar (therefore, the whole consecration), and were close enough to make out facial expressions!
One of the cardinals, Cardinal Bertone, stepped up to address the Holy Father at the end of Mass. This move was not in the program. He said that we (the Church) wouldn't be sincere if we said that there was not a sadness felt among us at his (Pope Benedict's) decision to resign. He continued,
"All of us have realized that it is precisely the deep love that Your Holiness has for God and the Church that prompted you to make this act, revealing that purity of mind, that strong and demanding faith, that strength of humility and meekness, along with great courage, that have marked every step of your life and your ministry, and that can only come from being with God, from standing in the light of the word of God, from continuously going up the mountain of encounter with Him to descend again into the City of men." (Here's the full text of Cardinal Bertone's address)This truly communicated the sentiments of the entire Church. Cardinal Bertone and many people gathered (myself included, I admit) got emotional. We love the Holy Father so much! We will miss having Pope Benedict as our Papa, guiding the Church inspired by the Holy Spirit in the office of St. Peter, but we trust him and support him in his decision! It's not only a decision for him, it is for the Church and for the world. His courage and humility in following the will of God, even when God asks something unconventional and difficult, is admirable and inspiring!
At the end, when Pope Benedict was processing out, we (a couple other students, my RD, and I) squeezed our way toward the aisle, waved frantically, and smiled really big!! Pope Benedict LOOKED AT US, WAVED, BLESSED US, then WAVED AGAIN! (We know he was looking at us because we were the only ones smiling and waving among the group of elderly dignitaries we were sitting with.) I was so happy and excited! I still am!!
And now, we return to the beginning of my post, where I mentioned I was sprawled on my bed, passed out from exhaustion. That's what happened when we got back to our villa last night. Today has been a much needed day of relaxation and (soon) study. Deo gratias!
P.S. You may have noticed a distinct lack of pictures on my blog lately. Well, I have sad news. I lost my camera at St. Francis' hermitage in Assisi. I'm hoping to come up with a replacement soon! Until then, bear with me! I'll use some of the photos my classmates have been taking and post links to some good ones I come across online. Here are some pictures from Pope Benedict's Ash Wednesday Mass and a couple from his Wednesday audience.
Also, here's a funny, lighthearted article for the beginning of Lent! A Non-Catholic's Guide to Lenten Weirdness
Finally, I apologize that this post is overwhelmingly long. I have yet to master the art of blogging: short and succinct!