Wednesday mornings in Rome offer a special opportunity to see, hear and perhaps even meet the Pope when the he is in residence at the Vatican. My family is particularly fond of Pope Francis, our current “Jesuit Pope.” So, attending the papal audience was high on our list while in Rome.
Our daughter Caitlin and her husband Bobby had some special connections that allowed them to meet the Pope, speak to him and shake his hand. Caitlin packed up her wedding dress in its own suitcase to join the “sposi noveli,” or newlyweds, through the North American Bishop’s office. I suggested that she buy a less expensive, less bulky and less perishable dress for the occasion, but Caitlin was firm in her decision to bring her original wedding dress for this unique and very special meeting. “How often do you get the chance to meet the Pope while wearing your wedding dress?” she asked.
When Wednesday morning dawned, the rain was pouring, but we left our hotel to join the line two hours early. We brought our umbrellas, but soon bought rain ponchos from street vendors as the wind blew, lightening flashed, thunder boomed, umbrellas spilled streams of water down our backs and arms, and our clothes and shoes quickly became drenched. (I may never wear those shoes again!) We huddled together in a line that filled the sidewalk and wrapped around the block with others pushing and moving in front of us. The rain-soaked, aggressive crowd did not make the time pass quickly.
Caitlin and Bobby (the newlyweds) had left about 10 minutes earlier and had a better place in line near the Bernini colonnade, and Caitlin was able to wait under the colonnade while Bobby held her place in line with the umbrella. She did not get as wet as we did, thankfully.
Finally, we were admitted through security into the Pope Paul IV auditorium, that seats 6,000 people, about halfway back. Inside, the audience was even more rowdy and rude your standards, hoisting selfie sticks in our line of sight and standing on chairs while acting like the Pope was a rock star. Well, we agreed, he is.
Relieved to be out of the pouring rain, we relaxed and listened to readings and the Pope’s homily along with translations in several languages. The Pope blessed us and our families. Before exiting the hall, the Pope greeted a group of children and then greeted each newlywed spouse. Mission accomplished! Fortunately, the sun was shining as we left, and we were ready for lunch.
(Family photos are not for sale, but I included them in this blog for their uniqueness.)