There is a lot of buzz around the Pope’s visit to America. Huge crowds are expected for all the events and the Northeast practically shutdown, as the Pope gets a rock star welcome. Last weekend, I even saw this t-shirt commemorating the Pope’s visit. While I don’t have a t-shirt to show for it, I was reminded of the Sunday Mass I attended in Rome. The unexpected surprise was that the mass was led by Pope Francis!
I had joked with my friends before my trip, “When in Rome on Sunday, go to Mass in St. Peter’s Square”. In general, I am drawn to the beautiful vibrations at places like this. I have found this to be true across every religion. I get goose bumps just thinking about the millions of people that have come to these places for centuries with such faith. It feels like the energy, the love, of all those people still resides there. And to truly experience this powerful energy, you can’t see it like a tourist. This energy doesn’t open up to outsiders. You have to experience it like those millions before you, with an open heart and with faith – and preferably attend whatever prayer is happening there. It really changes the place from a photo op to spiritual experience.
I decided to get up early on Sunday and find a spot for mass in St. Peter’s Square. Making my way through the sea of people, all local and only speaking Italian, I walked straight towards the Basilica and I somehow end up in a special section. I even thought to myself, why are people standing all the way on the sides when this section has chairs and a view right in the center of St. Peter’s Square. I couldn’t find an open seat, so I kept walking to the front. Eventually, I hit a barricade and could see another section ahead of me. I asked a local teenager how I could get to the next section – since it was obviously
closer. He showed me his ticket for the section we were in, and told me in broken English, he didn’t know how to get a ticket for the next section. Now I realized why so many people were standing on the sidelines, and began to think that this wasn’t just another Sunday Mass – there must be something going on. An Italian man that was standing near me started creating commotion, and the Swiss Guard came and asked him and all the rest of the us standing for our tickets. Since none of us had tickets, the guard asks everyone to leave. He then looks at me, knowing I don’t have a ticket, smiles and walks away. I scanned the crowd and found a seat as quickly as I could – before another guard asks me for my ticket. The sweet lady sitting next to me hands a prayer book and tells me in Italian that it’s Penacosta Mass, and that Pedre (Pope Francis) would be conducting the whole mass. I saw the whole school of cardinals, and the Pope conduct the entire 2 hour mass in Italian and Latin. That 2 hours felt like 10 minutes.
People from all over the world plan to come to the Vatican on this day, and I just happened to be there. By the time mass started every inch of the square was packed to capacity, and people not allowed inside. With sheer luck, I ended up in a ticketed section without a ticket. And for some reason the guard felt kindness towards me and let stay in the ticketed section. I had a fairly front and center view of this beautiful Mass. In experiences like this language is not necessary to understand the emotions being expressed – all the energy of the place comes alive all at once. This was an unexpected experience, that is now an unforgettable memory…….when in Rome.