Wednesday in Rome – we saw the Pope!

We returned from Rome late last night, so I’ll catch you all up on our adventures starting with our first day!  Wednesday morning, all of my students and my family met at the train station at 6:30am.  We needed to leave early to get to the Vatican for the Pope’s weekly audience at 10:30am.  Unfortunately, the Italian train system lived up to its reputation, and we were almost an hour late getting into Rome.  So we literally sprinted to our hotel to drop off our luggage; we ran through the crowded metro to catch a subway train to the Vatican; and then we raced to the indoor auditorium next to St. Peter’s where the audience is held.  It was VERY stressful, but in the end, it was worth it!  (Thankfully, Maria’s mom and my parents were advised to take a cab from the train station to the Vatican.)

Here are pictures of the Swiss Guards that protect the Pope. 


We didn’t exactly end up with front row seats after showing up at the last minute.  But the massive auditorium is designed well, so we had no trouble seeing or hearing.

Pope Benedict XVI gave a blessing in seven different languages, and groups from all over the world were recognized.  It was like a pep rally for the Pope!  When groups were announced, many of them stood up and cheered.  When they announced Mount St. Mary’s University, our students gave a loud cheer and the Pope waived.  That was really awesome!  Some groups even began singing when they were announced which was rather touching.  We hadn’t thought that far ahead – we were just happy to be there!

After the audience with the Pope, we went back to the hotel to actually check in.  We had decided not to do the Vatican tour that afternoon, because we thought the students would want to go to Ash Wednesday services in the afternoon.  So we took the metro back to the hotel.  Nicholas and Thomas were intrigued by these signs on the metro train doors.  Nicholas thought the body parts getting stuck in the signs was funny…  Thomas, on the other hand, kept imagining his body being crunched like the stick figures in the pictures…  He wasn’t very happy about jumping on and off the trains!     


After getting back to the hotel, we looked for a church to go to for an Ash Wednesday mass.  I know – difficult to find a Catholic Church in Rome, right?  Most of the students went to back to the Vatican to go to St. Peter’s, but we didn’t want to go too far from our hotel.  So we went to Santa Maria Maggiore which turned out to be a really beautiful church.  We were treated to a High Mass – with at least twenty priests, singing in Latin, and the principal celebrant looking a lot like a Cardinal.  It was easily one of the most beautiful services I have ever been to.  After mass, we were curious who the principal celebrant was, so we waited to see if any of the priests spoke English.  Eventually, we found one that did, and he introduced us to Cardinal Law.  I obviously hadn’t recognized him, but once we were introduced, I remembered who he was.  He was once the Archbishop of Boston who resigned and then was called to Rome.  He talked to us for a good while, and he was very nice.  He knew Mount St. Mary’s and asked me a bunch of questions.  He also remembered Bishop Nobert Gaughan who married Maria and I and died about ten years ago.  This gave me goose bumps.  Bishop Gaughan was a good friend of my family, and it was nice hearing Cardinal Law talk about him.  So we saw the Pope and met a Cardinal all in the same day! 

After church we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant.  An accordian player ventured in and treated us to some traditional Italian songs.  It was a great ending to a fun day!



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