Because you see him on TV, magazines and posters often enough, he’s a familiar figure and you easily “connect”. But we didn’t foresee being within a few meters from him. Such blessing. My niece was so happy as I snapped a photo of her just as the Pope’s party was advancing towards us. He passed our way 2x and even stopped. We were 5 seats away from this Filipino couple with a baby and the Pope stopped to bless and kiss the baby!
We came early. The Swiss Guard advised us that they’re all good seats but we remembered to sit next to the barrier where the Pope’s motorcade would pass. There was time to pray the rosary. By the time Pope Francis started his rounds, everyone else seated in front of us rushed and squeezed us next to the perimeter barrier. I wanted to scream but restrained myself and quietly said “Please don’t push” to a nun right behind me. The same nun even tried to stand on my seat, propping herself steady by putting her hand and body weight on my shoulders! Oh Lord.
I remember asking our Filipino driver (for our day trips out of Rome) what the weather would be like on Wednesday’s Papal Audience. He answered he’s been living in Rome well over 10 years but always found the sun shining every time the Pope comes out. Like the sky clears even briefly while he’s out, then rains after. Amazingly Unbelievable. But today, it looks like Mr. Sun will be out the whole day.
When the Pope addressed the crowd, he mentioned that his blessing extends to all the pilgrims’ family and friends. That made me weep, as I was frantically checking if I missed praying for some loved ones. Back in 2000, we missed the Papal Audience. Then in 2006, we got lucky and attended the Easter Mass here, seated above the Bernini columns and right behind one of those statues adorning the collonade. This 2016, we came for the Sunday Mass, Sunday Angelus and the Wednesday Papal Audience.
Who knows when the next Jubilee year would be? I came for 2, and wish for a 3rd in my lifetime. This Holy Year of Mercy, I noticed my prayers & petitions are simpler and fewer. Last time (2000), I prayed for discernment as my mind was troubled over my career. My decision to retire exactly a year after that visit was one of my best decisions ever. This year, there are no career nor family issues. I found myself praying for others. And for my country.
We thank you, Sweet Jesus, for keeping us safe, strong, healthy, determined and in harmony during our Camino. We pray to you with thanksgiving for the many blessings and gifts. Stay with us, dear Lord, and strengthen our faith. Do not put us to the test, but make us grow wiser in Your ways. Amen.