“R” is for Rome
The last day that I was in Rome, Italy landed, appropriately, on a Sunday. I had been sick that weekend either from travel fatigue or from my fellow travelers suddenly falling ill to what seemed like the plague, and the rain that flooded the streets the night before wasn’t helping at all.
A friend of mine, who was also Catholic, had mentioned that she wanted to attend mass while she was in Rome. I wasn’t the most religious person, but I agreed to go along because it would be kind of cool to say to my other Catholic friends that I did. We both got up that morning in search for a church with a service that was held in English, but, we had missed many of those already and didn’t think it would be worth it to sit through mass in Italian. We ended up wandering around and meeting up with another friend at the hotel that we were staying at. “Did you guys want to see the Pope at the Vatican?”
My friend and I looked at each other and knew the answer, “Umm, yeah!”
We ended up asking our tour guide from the day before, who was also staying at our hotel and sitting in the lobby, if the Pope had made it back in town. Apparently, he was gone the entire time we were there, but made it back for his weekly Sunday blessing.
Our tour guide gave us full proof directions from our hotel to the Vatican, “Get on this bus out front in a few minutes. If you pass Vatican City then you went to far,” and we were on our way.
The three of us ran onto a bus that dropped us off right outside the Vatican. We followed nuns, priests, travelers and curious onlookers from all over the world to the open piazza in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral. Lining the streets up to the square were vendors selling items with Papa Francesco’s face displayed on the top. There were enough colorful rosaries to fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools, and people were jumping at the chance to buy souvenirs from the holy place.
The three of us managed to squeeze ourselves into a crowd of people staring up at the terrifying-looking sky. It looked as if it was going to rain, but no one dared move and potentially miss the Pope. We all waited patiently for the clock to strike noon and for the Pope to emerge from the open window. I looked up at the dark and ominous clouds again just as the cool winds began to blow. I began taking out the umbrella in preparation for the heavy rains.
The wind continued to blow. I looked up, and to my surprise, the clouds were following along with the wind. I watched as the sun peaked out from behind the thick gray blanket. With every minute that went by before the Pope arrived, the clouds went by slowly as well. I managed to put my umbrella away as the clouds moved away entirely from the Vatican.
A roar of cries and applause erupted from the crowd that was standing around us. I looked to my left and saw a large man looking up at the Pope with silent tears streaming down his face. It was all so surreal, standing there in front of the Pope as someone who was raised Catholic. I hadn’t planned on it affecting me as it did, but I was definitely awestruck by the situation.
We stood in the crowd for 45 minutes or so and listened to the Pope give his blessing in Latin, Italian, and some Spanish that I was able to pick up on. We all snapped pictures and took video, and when he was finished, the Pope waved goodbye and disappeared into the building next to St. Peter’s.
We walked back to the bus that would take us to the hotel that afternoon, and just as we began to make our way down the street, the cool wind began to blow again. I left the piazza that day looking up at the clouds that had made their way back over the Vatican.