When I signed up for the Catholic Studies semester abroad in Rome, there was no possible way that I could even have dreamed up the opportunities that I would have while I am here. For example, within the first two weeks of being in Rome, a cardinal came to Bernardi to celebrate our community night Mass. In addition, we’ve had opportunities to go to a diaconate ordination, a canonization Mass, and now, a consistory—where all the Catholic cardinals in the world come together for a ceremony in which new cardinals are created. Needless to say, a consistory is kind of a big deal. The college of cardinals totals around 120, so when they’re all gathered together in one place, everybody sees red.
There are cardinals from all over the world, so one gets a real sense of the global nature of the Catholic Church—its universality. Where our group was sitting in St. Peter’s Basilica, we were surrounded by a group of people who had traveled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to see one of their bishops elevated to the iconic high ecclesial office that shares a name with my favorite North American songbird. Their expressions of jubilance at the occasion were distinctly foreign to me, and quite probably caused me to experience more culture shock than I have ever experienced before. I give them kudos for originality, though; I would never have thought to bring vuvuzelas and cowbells to a consistory.
After the consistory, we had the opportunity to go to a reception at the Pontifical North American College for the two new cardinals from the United States: Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Donald Wuerl. After waiting in line for a considerable amount of time, our group even had the opportunity to greet Cardinal Burke. As some members of our company have a personal acquaintance with Burke, this was a special moment.
All in all, after a long day standing in lines, going hungry, and getting pushed around by barely controlled crowds of Catholics numbering in the thousands, I was grateful to return to the (relative) calm of Bernardi. Welcome to a day in Rome, to St. Peter’s, and to the world of the Pope. I am beginning to understand why people say, “I love the Pope, but I hate his crowds.” Nonetheless, I will be back on quiet country roads before I know it, and I more than likely will never again be at a consistory of the Catholic Church. Besides, one must leave one’s comfort zone if one wants to see new things, right? I think the proper perspective helps.
Ciao for now,