So, many of you who have access to my Facebook or parents know by now that I pretty much met Pope Francis last week.
It was surreal.
There are several articles written about the whole thing, which is great because the whole moment is a big emotional blur for me, but I want to include the best article I’ve read about it so far, if you are interested: http://thericatholic.com/news/detail.html?sub_id=6144
On Tuesday, I made sure I was prepared for the Papal Audience that I would be attending the next morning. I went to a religious store on the Borgo Pio, which is right by Vatican City and is notable for their religious stores. Probably spending the most I have at a store since being here, I purchased rosary beads and prayer cards, because the Pope always says a blessing over any objects we have with us at the end of the audience. My friend, Joe Day, came a little more prepared the next day, with a zuchetto (the white scull cap that the Pontiff wears). But I’ll get into that.
I woke up at 4:30am last Wednesday (the 17th), walked to the 24 hour bakery because the metro was still closed, and was at the front of the line to St. Peter’s Square by 6am with my friends. It was still dark. Soon, the line was long, but we assured that we would get the seats we wanted by showing up that early. We’re a little neurotic, but it’s okay. We also all made sure to wear our PC gear :).
Doors opened at 7:30, and we ran into the square. Literally. It’s amazing how many people will push and shove and yell at you for getting in the way to attend a religious event… kinda ironic. We actually didn’t want to be in the front section, but a more middle one, so that we could hopefully increase our chances of the Pope passing by multiple times. So we actually let people pass by us until the first section was almost filled and they would open up the second one. Soon, the Swiss Guards placed people in wheel chairs along our barrier, so we knew the Pope would definitely make a trip down our aisle.
We saved a seat for our teacher, who called us and met up with us, and that was definitely a good decision on her part. She also brought us “cornetti,” which translates to croissants.
During the 3 hours that we were waiting in the square, our friend, Lauren, said, “We should write him a note.” “I have a bright pink post-it note,” I replied. “What size?” “Post-it note sized.” “That will do!”
I opened up my backpack, gave her the note, and she wrote, “Providence College LOVES Papa Francesco!” She passed it around with the pen, and we all signed our names. There were 8 of us.
Soon, and by soon I mean at 10:15, the Pope came out on his Popemobile. He rode around, and came down our aisle last- so there was much anticipation built up there. We were all shaking as we yelled, “Papa! Papa!” and pointed to Joe’s zuchetto that he brought with him.
There’s a tradition where if you present a zuchetto to the Pope, he’ll exchange his with yours. In our case, our zuchetto was too big, or so the Pope told us directly in Italian.
The Pope came closer, and we yelled louder. Now, in front of us, he signaled his driver to stop. Joe, who is already around 6 feet tall, was standing on a chair, reaching over the barrier, handing Pope Francis his zuchetto. Francis took the hat, humbly took off his own, placed ours in his to measure it, at which time he declared that it was too big, but read the note that we placed in there and smiled. He placed ours on his head for a second, closed his eyes and said a quick prayer, and handed ours back.
This was all a blur, but luckily, one of our friends took an amazing video of the exchange, which can only be seen on Facebook, until I can convince him to upload it to Youtube.
I was shaking. This just happened. Our teacher was crying. I couldn’t take a steady picture. Joe was holding a hat that the Pope just wore and had a moment with.
We heard stories from other classmates who were there that saw us on the Jumbotron and were yelling, “That’s Joe Day!” These classmates shook hands with the pope when he came by them, but they were still in shock.
For the rest of the audience, we were also in a state of shock. I don’t know how to describe it. We were stuck in the moment, constantly re-looking at our pictures to reassure that we really just experienced what we experienced.
At the end of the ceremony, several pictures were taken, and several strangers wanted to see the zuchetto. It was touching. They just wanted to kiss it, or hold it, or take a picture of it, but they were all in a state of shock as well.
There is now an image of Joe on the PC homepage, as well as several newspapers, blogs, Facebook pages, etc. My head can be seen in a lot of them, but obviously, I wasn’t looking for the camera.
I don’t even know what happened that day, but it was amazing. Uploading these pictures and reliving the moment from my camera’s prospective again makes me want to cry. Enjoy living vicariously through me!