I am incredibly sorry this is so late, I have been trying my best to actually live in the moment here, as opposed to living on the computer while the moment is happening. Please forgive me.
As you can imagine, the entire business of the Pope resigning and the Papal Conclave, and now election and installation, has been incredibly thought-provoking, moving, overwhelming, saddening and exciting to say the least. We all have the sentiment of “Why me? Lord, why am I here at this time?” Our chaplain, Fr. Corolla, reiterated to us that every gift we are given is not for ourselves, but that we need to give it back. This gift, being able to be in the heart of Rome throughout these practically unprecedented events is an enormous one, and it is our duty to share with you all our first hand accounts of the Spirit working in the Church today.
Wednesday February 27 marked not only the day of my 21st birthday, but also the day of Pope Benedict’s last Papal Audience. What is a Papal Audience you may ask? Good question. Every Wednesday the Pope invites the public into an Auditorium (or in this case St. Peter’s Square) to be with him during a time of prayer and teaching. All the groups that are present are announced, and the faithful sing songs or prepare chants, and wave banners and flags to represent their country/school/order. Priests read a selected Scriptural reading to the audience in about 5 different languages and the Holy Father speaks on that reading in Italian (kind of like a homily). He then does a brief recap in each language.
We knew this event was going to be packed, so we did what any reasonable group of Catholic college students would do: we woke up at 2am to get in line to see our Holy Father for the last time. We stopped on the way at our favorite little 24 hour bakery, stocked up for the day ahead and planted ourselves just outside the gate at St. Peter’s Square. Fun fact: it takes 30 minutes to walk leisurely to St. Peter’s from our house.
I shared a little about my Thursday February 28 experience in a previous post:
“Thursday was full of many tears: both of joy and sorrow. It was the final day of Pope Benedict’s time and we said our final goodbyes. First we watched his helicopter depart from St. Peter’s, then we gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a prayer vigil during the final hour of his pontificate. Our large and boisterous group as Americans drew a crowd, both of other faithful Christians who joined us in our prayer as well as many members of different media organizations. It was pretty frustrating to have photographers and video cameras in our faces as we were trying to pray, yet part of us is glad we were able to be at least a small witness as young, devoted Catholics. We finished off the night at an Irish Pub, with beers all around to toast our Papa.”
But I would have to say this was the first time I really truly felt God alive and present in my “real life,” as opposed to in a Chapel on a youth retreat conference expedition high. Yup. Looking around St. Peter’s Square with such uncertainty as to what the future would hold for both the Church but also life in general, I was filled with hope that the Lord was present, looking out over and for us, and that He has a perfect plan for the Papacy, His Church and me. I was overwhelmed with how much He loves us. I looked around at the massive Basilica built to honor one of His disciples and I had not one shred of doubt of the afterlife, the saints, angels and Our Lord. What a gift, it was awesome.
The city of Rome has paid a beautiful tribute to Pope Benedict Emeritus by putting up posters all over the city in his remembrance. “You remain with us always. Thank you.”