Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top 10 Getting to See the Pope. Almost

1. The first pope I can recall in my lifetime was Pope John XXIII.  I always thought that is why we HAD to learn Roman numerals to identify the age of the Pope.  I knew he was older; although I never saw him in person, we had a picture of him in every classroom in school. I knew what he looked like.  He was older than that, but of course, XXIII was a lot older in 1st grade and he was jolly looking like a grandfather type guy and I thought he resembled my grandmother a little. He seemed nice with his kind smile and everybody seemed to like him and we learned to sing and pray in Latin under his reign for a while. In egg shells was a favorite tune.

2. The next opportunity to actually see what a Pope looked like came more than a decade almost two later in Philadelphia in 1979.  My mother and I traveled into the city by train and left very early that morning to get a good spot to stand and see Pope John Paul II.  We waited for hours in a crowd amassed with eager to catch believers who wanted just a glimpse of the pontiff.  We were ushered into a side street off the boulevard and pretty far from the scheduled route of the pope's travels. We did witness a little flurry of excitement when it looked like the secret service rush into this building we happened to be standing in front of. I heard they were checking out the rooftop and then the guys in suits came out.  It was about 15 minutes later, just over this short ladies head and between about twenty thousand shoulders I saw him, well I saw his car go flashing by, but I was there and so was he. There are about a million witnesses. You saw me there right?

3. My parents were very active members at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Chester. They went to Rome when Blessed Katherine Drexel's canonization was performed by Pope John Paul II. My father made the Delaware County Daily Times article written that day by Joe Hart on October 2, 2000.  He had a  hypoglycemia attack, he did get to see the pope, but he missed half of the canonization, so did my mother and Father Peter who accompanied them to the medical tent. How many people get to visit the medical tent at a canonization and are blessed with a quick recovery? After that experience, my father was quoted as saying, he was glad to be there despite the mishap. "I was there for a purpose. It was something I was looking forward to", he said.  Here are two pictures of what they did get to see.

You can see the Pope on the screen just below the statue of St. Peter.

The Pope appears in the center of the picture in green vestments below the pictures of the Saints that are being canonized and under the canopy.

4. Fast forward ten years and I have arrived in Rome via a six hour bus ride from Venice.  There was not a lot of time to sight see upon our arrival but our tour director took us on a teaser trip along the Tiber River.  He was starting to explain old city and new city and the differences on either side of the river.  He also non-nonchalantly mentioned that he had it on good authority that the pope may be in town. At first I thought he was only joking with us.  Naturally the pope was in town, he lives here, but he was explaining that the pope takes a lot of trips and visits different people and places.  He is kind of a busy guy and the prior weekend was a big deal in town.  It was the beautification of the previous pope and banners were hanging everywhere.  You would have thought he was the current pope.  I was just starting to get an understanding of the Seven Hills in Rome when I looked up and I saw the chopper.  I was mesmerized.  Was that The POPE?  I totally missed the rest of the lesson on Hills and almost got whiplash twisting and turning and following what I was sure was the pope copter.  I still to this day think it was him above me. I couldn't tell who was driving or flying as the case may be.

5. That evening after dinner, what I called our pizza party night, we took a little side excursion. Simon our tour director did not want to promise anything and did not reveal where we were going till we got there.  When we arrived at our destination, Simon says, okay you have fifteen minutes. We aren't suppose to park here. Do you see the two windows lit up on the building on the right side?  That is the Apostolic Palace, the two lit window's are the pope's apartment.  He is in town tonight and it looks like he is awake and the other building, that is St. Peter's Basilica. You get to go inside that tomorrow.

6. It was an amazing sight from all angles with the time of evening, the lighting and the reflections made the atmosphere all the more magical, peaceful and serene. Fifteen minutes was almost torture but it was enough time to just marvel at the opportunity to actually be standing there and the Pope..... he was right up there.  Amazing Grace!

7. This is what the building looked like in the day light. On Sundays at noon, the pope usually (if he is in town)  appears in his window to pray the Angelus and bless the crowd in the Square. We had tickets to tour the cathedral at 9AM and the Sistine Chapel at 10AM and it was a Sunday. Hoo Rah!


8. There were still remnants in St. Peter's Square from the beautification of Pope John Paul II the previous weekend and this is one of the giant banners that was still on display. He was the 2nd longest reigning pope (1978–2005): 26 years, 5 months and 18 days (9,665 days).

9.  This photograph gives you an idea of the facade of the St. Peter's Basilica with the Sistine Chapel in the background. This is probably one of the camera angles that will be used when the smoke signal comes from the Sistine Chapel that a new pope has been selected.  I could make the trip if anyone would like to sponsor me and a guest of course. I would need a translator my Italian is limited to a shrug and forget about it.  I think the new pope appears in the center balcony (loggia) and greets the crowd. Don't quote me though it wasn't part of the tour.  


The Senior Cardinal Deacon will announce from a balcony over St. Peter's Square the following proclamation: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus Papam! ("I announce to you a great joy! We have a pope!"). He then announces the new pope's Christian name along with his newly chosen regnal name.

  Inside the church, beneath the Presentation of Mary Altar lies the body of Pope Pius X (1904 - 1914) the last Pope to date to be canonized.

He is dressed in a papal robe and his face and hands are covered in silver. Many of the more recent popes are interred at St. Peter's Basilica. How many popes are saints you ask?  I found a link to a list.

10. The Swiss Guards are the body guards to the pope and I am sure you have read articles about them lately.  They are not required to guard the pope now that he is a pilgrim. This is a picture of the "Bronze Door" that leads to the area where you get to have a private audience with the pope. Kings, Queens, Presidents and other dignitaries have entered through these doors. After going through security, we were allowed to pass them but entered the other Vatican buildings from the public entrance. I never did get the opportunity to see the pope.  We had tickets for the Coliseum at noon but there was enough time to go and purchase a blessing at the gift shop. It arrived about a month later with some pretty fancy stamps on it. Note that Mother Teresa's stamp was among them.

The blessing hangs on the wall in my living room.  I would take it out of the frame to remove the light glare but I never like to mess with things once I have been blessed.

So many times. I have been close but I have never actually seen the pope but I do feel blessed for the opportunities that I have had.

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