Let Us Be Saints!
Papa Bene! The real deal! Right in front of me!
Well, after two fabulous weeks, our Spring Break is finally coming to a close.  This "holiday" as they call it here in Europe has been absolutely phenomenal and I have so many stories and photos to share!  But for now I will tell you a bit about the Triduum and Beatification - two Church events I was able to experience in the heart of it all, here in Rome!Let me preface this by saying that papal liturgies are AMAZING because they are celebrated by the Holy Father, the direct successor of St. Peter himself, but they are CRAZY for the same reason.  Lots of people want to see Papa Bene and since Rome typically lacks order and cohesion, that just makes for quite a mess!  You need to obtain tickets for papal events a long time in advance and once you have a ticket you must basically push and shove your way in to get a seat!  You come early to wait (for example, Easter Vigil Mass was at 9 pm, doors opened at 7:30 pm, and we arrived in line at 3 pm), however the "lines" really don't get longer, they get wider toward the front.  Doors open a couple of hours before the event, and when they do, it is a mad rush!  I was honestly worried that someone would get trampled - it reminded me a lot of Black Friday shopping actually!  

But again, papal liturgies are amazing and it was SO COOL to be at St. Peter's to celebrate the highest feast of the liturgical year with our Holy Father and so many other Catholics.  A first highlight of the Triduum was definitely being about FIVE FEET AWAY FROM PAPA BENE!!!  At the end of the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning, where the holy oils to be used in sacraments throughout the diocese that year, I was able to get to the very edge of the barricade and see Papa up close!!!  See the photo above!!  I was filled with joy to be able to gaze into our Holy Father's eyes!!  And the cheering and shouts of "Papa!" that filled the air as he processed were simply phenomenal!!  I attended the Mass of the Lord's Supper at Trinita del Monti, the church at the top of the Spanish Steps with a beautiful French religious community.  It was a fabulous French chanted Mass - a taste of the angels singing!  After dinner, we did some "church hopping" - a Roman Holy Thursday tradition is that churches open up for Eucharistic Adoration at night, often until Midnight or later, and decorate their altars with flowers and candles for the occasion.  It was kind of like trick-or-treating for Catholics!  We would run into people we knew on the streets who would tell us, "This church has a beautiful altar" or "At this church you can see so and so's relics!"  So many goodies!  It was an absolutely beautiful way to see some more Roman churches and ring in the Triduum with prayer.

On Good Friday I got to climb the Sacred Steps (the steps that led up to Pilate's Palace, that Christ himself walked up and down) on my knees, as the tradition has it.  Such a beautiful experience where I could unite my suffering with our Lord!  Then at the Good Friday Service, our seminarians got to SERVE!!!  Yes, they got to hold Papa Bene's chasuble and wash his HANDS!!  AND Sarah DeCock, one of our Bernardi sisters, got to proclaim the FIRST READING!!!  She was the only female up on the altar the whole time, so she was essentially representing half of the world's population!!  It was in English, of course, and she did a great job!! 

I must say that one of my favorite moments of the Triduum was during the Vigil was when St. Peter's went totally DARK, except for a few lights shining on saint statues, while the Easter Candle was being processed in.  SO COOL!!!  The worship aids were literally books - they were each at least 40 pages.  The music was phenomenal, with a wonderful choir and for Easter Vigil, a full orchestra!  And there were a handful of baptisms and confirmations.  Imagine getting BAPTIZED or CONFIRMED by PAPA BENE!!!  Wow!!  We celebrated with gelato at about 1 am when the Vigil was done!!   Easter Sunday we went to St. Peter's Square to receive a papal blessing and hear him wish the world "Happy Easter" in dozens of different languages!!  Then we had a fabulous brunch at Bernardi, exchanged gifts with our Lenten prayer partners, had our own candy hunt, and even concluded with a dance party!!  Christ is Risen!!  Alleluia!!

After a trip to Ireland (which was PHENOMENAL!) we returned to Rome for the Beatification of John Paul II.  We could tell as soon as we arrived here that something was different - the whole city was abuzz with excitement!  Security was increased, vendors had set up shops in new locations, the metros and buses were running more frequently, little information stands had sprung up, signs with JPII's picture on it were all over the place, and the pilgrims were all over, especially those wearing the red and white of Poland! 

Last night we had a fabulous dinner with two of the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus, a beautiful religious community that was just recently founded in the New Ulm Diocese of Minnesota.  One of them was Mother Mary Clare, the foundress, and the other was Sister Miriam Rose, the biological sister of Ephrem, one of our Bernardi seminarians!  It was so good to pray with them and speak to them!  Then many of us hopped on the metro (it was a squishy ride) and headed to Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman chariot racing stadium, for a prayer vigil before the Beatification.  The whole circus was FULL of pilgrims waving flags to represent their homelands and holding candles.  It was absolutely phenomenal!

We got seats on a steep hill that was a bit slippery, so maintaining our balance was a bit of a challenge.  But we were THERE and we got to take it all in (with the help of huge TV screens).  The emcee seemed to be some kind of Italian pop star, and she interviewed several people to give testimonies about JPII, including the French nun whose miraculous cure from Parkinsons was the miracle necessary for the beatification, and the current Archbishop of Krakow (which JPII once was).  There was a fabulous live choir and orchestra, directed by a bishop!  And TV screens showed us the celebrations that were being held all across the world in honor of JPII, including at the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Krakow where we had just gone!  At the end the whole crowd prayed the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary (which JPII gave the world) together.  Each decade was led by the faithful in a different country.  It was so fun to see them on the screen in their homeland, wearing traditional dress, and singing traditional music.  Then we all responded to the prayers in Latin, the language of the universal church!  It was a late night, but so worth it! 

Many pilgrims camped out near St. Peter's Square, awaiting its opening this morning, to attempt a spot in the square for the Beatification Mass.  There were tents and blankets and pilgrims could purchase boxed meals.  However, after getting only four hours of sleep a couple nights before (we had a 6:30 am flight back from Dublin) and a bit tired of the crowds from the Triduum liturgies (people can get pushy and rude) I decided to go back to Bernardi to sleep.  This morning we awoke early and made our way to St. Peter's, only to find immense crowds.  There was no hope of getting into the square and the mob in front of the nearest viewing screen at Castel Sant'Angelo was enormous, so after spending a while in the thick of it, we decided to head back to Bernardi.  It is so incredible though to think that I am here in this city and that people have literally come from all across the world for this historic event!!  So many pilgrims!!  I proudly wore my Polska sweatshirt that I got in Poland yesterday and today!!  I was able to go to Mass at St. Joachim, one of my favorite local parishes, and caught a bit of the Mass live on my computer.  It is a gorgeous sunny day in Rome right now.  I cannot help thinking that our beloved JPII is looking down on us all from heaven with a big smile.  Praise God!!  School starts up again tomorrow and it is simply unreal to think that we fly back to the states one month from today (June 1st)!  I will do my best to soak up each and every moment I have left!


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