Our alarm went off at 5.30am on Sunday morning and we had no problem getting up at all! We were off to Mass at St Peter’s but this wasn’t just any Mass. Pope Benedict was presiding and the Mass included the ordinations of new priests. WHOA!
Before bed, we got all of our clothes and things ready. I checked my purse ten times to make sure we had our tickets! When we went down to the Domus Lobby, they called us a cab and gave us our packed breakfast. They even took a photo of us –
I was actually nervous as we were in the car… but it was beautiful driving through the empty streets in the morning sun. Everything was beautifully illuminated and peaceful.
Morning sun at St Peter’s –
When we got to St Peter’s there was already a line of people. Mass wasn’t starting until 9am and we got in the line promptly at 7am. Then we just had to wait it out.
In the queue -
By about 7.45 the line through security was moving. We just held hands and said “Let’s do this!” and off we went. We entered the Basilica and the sun shining from behind us was almost blinding. People moved swiftly and what surprised me most was that we could choose our own seats!
So here we were, 21 rows back from the main altar AND we were sitting on the aisle. We would get to see everything! I was in shock that we were able to sit so close and I kept thinking someone, somewhere would be coming up to tell us we would have to move but that didn’t happen. Before we left, I bought us two Italian – English missals so we could follow along but we didn’t need them as we all got beautiful Mass books just for the occasion. We will always treasure them!
Everyone getting seated –
The pews started filling and I started chatting (as well as we could understand each other) to the lady beside me. Her brother was a priest and would be in the main procession. I was so excited for her and she was very excited to have New Yorkers beside her. The excitement in the air could be felt by anyone there and it was wonderful to see so many different people – young familes, the elderly, nuns, tourists, locals – all together in one place.
Here we are all settled and excited -
Before Mass there was a recitation of the Rosary in Italian and then we all waited patiently. The procession was amazing. I have never seen so many priests in my life – there were hundreds of them.
Then, surrounded by clouds of incense, we could see Pope Benedict in the distance.
I couldn’t even speak. As his platform moved slowly down the aisle you could hear the gasps of people – just honored to be in his presence. When he came near us, he was close enough that I could have reached out to him. It was one of those moments that you can’t really believe what you are seeing.
A few things – he is A LOT shorter than I envisaged him. He is tiny! He is also very tanned – I didn’t expect that. He was also a lot more mobile that I expected. It is known that he suffers from severe arthritis but honestly, you couldn’t tell. He looked great. I was so transfixed on looking at him and with the shock of seeing him I didn’t even get a good picture of him arriving. I thought Bill would have but.. he had the same issue as I did!
Before we knew it, the Swiss Guards were standing in place and it was time for Mass to begin. I was able to follow along a lot easier than Bill because I have some knowledge of Italian.
Funnily enough, mum was watching at home on EWTN online and she was getting a full explanation of everything that was going on and what he was saying in his homily! We had programmed our Tivo to record it on EWTN so we were able to come home and watch that broadcast.
For the new priests, the ordination ceremony is extremely moving. They pledge to obey, they lay on the floor, they are blessed – it was very moving but somewhat celebratory after all of their study and preparation – today was their day!
The music was spectacular and the choir sung beautifully. On the other hand, Communion was the craziest scene I have ever witnessed in a church! A priest was assigned to distribute communion to two rows each. But, they did this while standing in the aisle facing us who were sitting and facing the altar. So first up was Bill, as he was sitting against the guard that was blocking us from the aisle. He stood up and received and I crept around him when it was my turn. We ended up having to walk back to the end of our row of seats while the others in our row went up for communtion. The problem was all of this movement was taking place in a tiny space – it was chaos! Also, with no kneelers it was strange to just sit back down straight afterwards!
The Mass went for nearly over two hours. Then it came time for the recessional. WOW. We actually managed to get a few good photos of Il Papa! It all went so quickly but the recessional was beautiful and full of joy!
And look – we got some good photos of him as he was leaving!
More of the spectacular recessional -
You can actually see the whole Mass online here
Read Pope Benedict’s homily here
After a while of sitting there thinking “Whoa – what did we just experience?” it was time to go outside. When we stepped out a lot of the fellow worshippers were mingling out the front of St Peter’s – just like what normally happens at every parish on a Sunday. Then we looked out ahead and there were thousands and thousands of people in St Peter’s Square.
Ohhhh look Vatican tape -
And… trying to move the crowd on -
There was the huge sitting area that was empty between us and them. They were all waiting to see the Pope appear from his apartment window for the Regina Caeli. As he normally doesn’t actually perform that many Masses, he always says the Sunday Angelus/Regina Caeli from his window. We were SO fortunate to be present for both!
Here he is -
For the Regina Caeli, everyone prays and then also reads a message. It was a great way to finish off a very memorable morning. He read the part about to English speaking visitors in English so we could understand part of the message! It was fun to read what he said later and to know that he finished with “I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you. Have a good Sunday!” Awww!
Here we are – still basking in the excitement of our unforgettable morning -
See the video here
Read his message here
The crowds were so large and getting back to Domus was going to be an issue. We were lucky enough to get a cab and got back to Domus very quickly as the buses were not running frequently and the lines were so long. We were exhausted so we decided to try and have a nap to refresh ourselves before heading back out to our afternoon activity.
I had booked tickets to see Lux in Arcana – the special Vatican archives exhibition at Musei Capiolini. By the time we got there, it was PACKED. We had pre-booked tickets so we thought we would be able to just walk straight up and collect them. Unfortunately not. I asked two people and they just said “Ticket booth!” The line for the ticket booth was about 30 minutes long. I couldn’t believe I went to the trouble of booking in advance to still have to line up! One thing that made it easier was we got talking to the couple in front of us who were from Memphis. We all chatted away for the whole time and then, when we got to the ticket booth we saw a sign for pre-booked tickets. We could’ve skipped the line after all but we couldn’t get close enough to the booth to see the sign! Sheesh! Anyway, we got into the exhibition and again it was packed and again, it was hot. I couldn’t really enjoy it as I think by it being after 5pm I was now jut too tired to enjoy anything and seriously what could top the morning activities?! We ended up staying in the museum for a while but did spend a lot of time on the rooftop. It was so peaceful and it offered us such a beautiful view of the city… I could have stayed there forever!
From where we were standing there were church bells ringing everywhere. When I get the video uploaded I will post it separately.
I wish I got to take more at the exhibition as some of the artefacts on display were absolutely amazing, but by the time we left (and Bill had heard me say a million times “I love it here – I want to stay forever!”) we were starving as we had skipped lunch. So we wandered around and ended up back at… Abruzzi!
Before we sat down for dinner, we went and spent time in Santi Apostoli. This was a very dark church inside – it was almost spooky! We went down to the crypt are and this was the view looking up –
The altar under the church -
Relics of St Philip -
The church was magnificent and there was hardly anyone there as we were visiting so late.. it was perfect!
We wandered across the square to Abruzzi. Again, everything we ordered was absolutely amazing.. my mouth is watering just thinking about it while I type this. It was the best lasagne I have ever eaten!
After dinner we went for a walk.. it was such a beautiful night and walking around the quiet back streets was a great way to end the day.
We came across the Pontifical University -
We had no idea where we were going but Bill asked if we were close to the Trevi fountain. I said there was no way we could be but.. before we knew it we were there!
That REALLY is the color of the sky!
And it was here that we took the most touristy/creepy photos EVER -
Now.. here I was 13 years ago. I threw a coin into the fountain and well.. I really did make it back!
We walked away knowing that we really didn’t need to throw a coin into the Trevi to hope that we would be returning to Rome.. we knew that someday we would definitely be back. Without a doubt!