My curser is blinking on the screen in front of my face, and it is certainly not because I have nothing to say. I have too much to say! Words cannot capture Holy Week in Rome, in the heart of the church, and in our home away from home. But I owe it to you to try.
For three days we were focused completely on the preparation and celebration of Easter. The final preparation in Rome (after a full season of Lent), consisted of the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday papal masses. As Bernardi and company, with visiting friends and families, we made our way to St. Peter’s to beat the crowds and celebrate the Triduum with the Holy Father at the center of the Church. That’s no small thing! Three hours of anticipation to the moment of gate opening, a chaotic gate-jumping rush to get in, and an hour of seat-grabbing, waiting in the St. Peter’s Basilica, and there we were. Though I am painting a picture of total chaos, Good Friday mass was anything but chaotic. In this solemn feast, I had a direct view of Pope Benedict and the altar. It would be impossible to be distracted by the people when you are within the most incredible structure on earth in the face of the pope. I wouldn’t exactly boast about my ability to sit still in an instance, but in those few hours, I was almost frozen! Well, I do admit to a slight distraction from the celebration when I held my long arms above the crowd to catch a video of our very own Luke reading the English Prayer of the Faithful. We were so proud to have a member of our little community represent the English speaking peoples of the world in front of the pope- what a blessing! And it’s only Friday. We had a similar experience for the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday, but it was in no way the same. The Mass began in darkness. As the procession began, light slowly spread from candle to candle until the magnificent basilica above our heads was illuminated with an under glow of candle light. Beautiful! There is really no way to describe it. To make it better, Stephanie read the final reading before the gospel. Yet again, the people in St. Peter’s, the Cardinals and the Pope, and everyone tuned in on EWTN heard the Word from the voice of a Bernardian! Walking out of the doors that night, I felt a true feeling of celebration in the air, and especially in our group. We met at the obelisk and congratulated Stephanie with cheers and singing… have you ever been hurried out of the Vatican by security guards?!? We were. We made our way, speedily, to the nearest gelato shop to indulge in our first ever Easter treat. The night ended at different times for everyone, but it is safe to say that a good number was up to welcome the sun with morning prayer at 6:00 on the terrace. It was a full basement celebration with singing, dancing, laughing, and pure Easter joy!!!
Easter Sunday was probably one of the most memorable moments of the semester. Head-up by lead chefs, Victoria and birthday girl Marissa, we put together our very own Easter feast. It was community at it’s finest, in attendance were all of the Bernardians in town for the weekend, a few extra families, and Fr. Carola! While the ladies cooked inside and set the tables with Easter chocolates and a pot-luck of our favorite desserts, some of the boys managed the grill outside (which included a sampling of summer tunes and tossing around of the football). Lunch was delicious and truly joyful! I cannot count how many “this is wonderful”, “isn’t it great to be together”, and “good job, chefs!” I heard over the course of the meal! It was nothing other than a celebration. We followed up our meal with a quiet in-house Mass much unlike the three before. I personally benefited from the chance to really reflect on how incredible it was to have spent Easter week in Rome with Pope Benedict. As if the day wasn’t perfect enough, we sent out the sun with a large group game of football and world cup soccer. It was a great day, only to be followed by another adventurous week of travels.
I will have to send out a full update on the second week of spring break in a later blog. For now, we are all busy in the midst of multiple papers and quizzes. Here’s to the fourth quarter of our semester!
Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. Be assured that we are offering ours to you at home also!
Things to note:
-Bring thick-soled shoes, a limited amount of baggage, a rosary, a snack, and patience to all papal events. You would be surprised how quickly a 2-3 hour wait and a good seat can turn a papal Mass crowd into a reverent MOB.
-It is possible to grill a delicious meal with limited Italian meat options.
-Gelato tastes significantly more delectable after 40 days of Lent.