Friday, November 2, 2012

And The Saints [Went] Marching In...


First I should start by apologizing. I'm sorry.

Ok good, now that that's done...It has been a while since I have updated my blog. Really though, I should be apologizing to my mom and grandma. (Sorry Mom and Grandma! You guys are the best!) The rest of you just like the pictures (which are at the bottom) =] These past two weeks have been crazy busy, but now I'm ready to get down to business...

Two weeks ago (October 20th and 21st) I went to Rome for the canonization of Sts. Kateri Tekawitha, Marianne Cope (two North American saints) and 5 other holy men and women! My second visit to Rome was much more relaxed than the first. Strangely, it felt good to be back in a familiar place. I never thought I would get that feeling about Rome, but I did! God works in strange ways.

 Saturday afternoon we went to the Catacombs of St. Sebastian and walked through the tunnels where thousands of Christians and Roman citizens were buried. It was pretty cool being down there. There were miles and miles of tunnels. St. Sebastian's body is said to have been buried there after his martyrdom. It was surreal to be in the place where the first Christians said mass and had meals together. A beautiful testament to the strength and endurance of our Holy Catholic Church!

After the tour we walked into the church of St. Sebastian and I noticed about a dozen young college age students praying in the church. This may not sound very curious to you but it caught me by surprise because throughout this semester at places of pilgrimage me and my classmates have been the youngest people there by about 20 years. It was curious and refreshing to be praying alongside other college students. I found out later that they were studying abroad in Rome and were actually from Thomas Aquinas College on the East Coast, Ave Maria in Florida, and one other school that I forgot. They were on pilgrimage to all the major basilicas as a school trip. Another awesome testament to faith!

A funny little story for you all: A little later I was waiting to meet up with a friend from NET, Maureen, who is studying abroad in Rome as well. We were set to meet up at St. Peter's Square at 7 and I had some time to spare so I decided to sit on the steps around St. Peter's and people watch for a little bit (It's one of the few fun free things to do all across Europe. Never ending entertainment!).

When I was sitting there an Italian man in his 30's or 40's came and sat next to me. [Note to my mom: Don't worry. Nothing bad happens in this story. I'm totally fine!] After a few minutes of silence he asked me, "Que ora sono?" I proudly responded in my own Italian with the time (proud that I knew what he asked and knew how to say the time) and he was surprised to find out that I spoke Italian. (Then why did he ask me the time in Italian in the first place, right? Weird). Unfortunately that was the extent to my Italian because he insisted that we speak in English so that he could practice his. He asked me if I was Catholic, if I had many "boyfriends and lovers" (exact words, not even kidding) and if I had been on many "adventures." It was the most awkward conversation ever! To every questions I answered with a cold and vague answer (Yes, A few, No, umm.. adventures?, etc.).

After about 5 minutes of this I told him I had to go and walked into a huge group of tourists right in the middle of St. Peter's Square, hoping my new friend would not realize that I actually was just significantly creeped out by him and wanted to get away. Somehow I found my way into a crowd of Asian tourists and realized that I would stick out like a sore thumb if I hung around them too long. After only a few minutes of camouflaging into the crowds I found Maureen and we had a lovely pizza dinner! And that is the story of my all-too-curious Italian friend.

The next morning started very early (4:30 a.m.) with it's own set of adventures. We I woke up super early to get in line for the canonization so we could get good seats. By the time we arrived at St. Peter's (6:30 a.m.) there were already hundreds, maybe thousands of people lined up to get a seat for the canonization. It was crazy! People were making "Italian lines" (which really just means crowding together and elbowing your way closer to the front). The nuns were the worst ones! They would sneakily wiggle their way to the front of the line and cut everyone! It's hard to say no to a cute little nun, but in that line no one got any special privileges. One of my friends said it was like we weren't Catholic till we got our seats. The sad reality of it all. The prospect of getting close to the pope makes everyone a little crazy.

The liturgy was beautiful! The actual canonization lasted about 20 minutes and then we had mass. It was amazing to witness the crowds and crowds of people that were in attendance. Some people estimated there were about 100,000 people there. I don't know how accurate that is, but ever seat was filled and the steps around St. Peter's were crowded as well. it was beautiful.

I got teary eyed during communion. Pope Benedict XVI had been giving communion to the people in the very front section. They would walk up the ramp to the altar rail that he was supporting himself on, and he would distribute communion to them. Not only is he getting old and having a hard time walking far but he is the pope! Of course you would walk to where he is to receive communion from this vicar of Christ!

 Well, the last two people in that section were in wheel chairs, one was a young boy and one was an old man. The pope was assisted by his two servers down the ramp to where the man and boy were waiting to receive communion from him. His love and compassion for these two sons of God was so beautiful! I couldn't help but tear up at his small act of love and humility. It was beautiful. (So you see Dad, I really do have a heart! I cried!)

It was a wonderful weekend in Rome. I couldn't have asked for better weather, better company, or a more beautiful liturgy. I feel so blessed to have been in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI again and to go to Mass in St. Peter's Square. Welcoming the 7 new saints was an amazing experience and a good reminder that we are all called to be saints. The only thing holding us back is ourselves.

Prayer of Canonization for St. Kateri Tekawitha:
O God who, among the many marvels of Your Grace in the New World, did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk St. Kateri Tekawitha, grant we beseech You, the favor we beg through her intercession that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross may soon be counted among her Saints by Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence and faith. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Note: Photos are not in Chronological order. Don't get confused ;)

St. Sebastian Basilica, where the young people pray!

Where St. Sebastian is buried now.

Pizza with Maureen! It was amazing! Good company and good food!

The thousands of people that came to see the new saints welcomed!

Look at all those bishops! Our awesome shepherds!

This one is for you Aunt Helen! Msgr. Cihak, a friend of my cousins in Oregon, is an assistant to the Pope in Rome and was assisting the pope in the canonization liturgy. Can you see him on the left?

6:30 a.m. in St. Peter's Basilica. This was just a fraction of the line. Don't all those people look happy?

St. Peter's with the portraits of all the new baby saints =]

Annie, Stephanie and I. Can you spot Ryan's photo bomb?

Papa BXVI riding along in his pope-mobile 

The catacombs of St. Sebastian.  Walking in the footsteps of the early martyrs.

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