Saturday, October 20, after a rather rushed connection in Paris, we landed in Rome--some of us without our luggage. It was kind of a mixed-up day. We ended it with Mass at the San Lorenzo Youth Center (just outside of the Vatican) where I worked for a time as a volunteer during my seminary days, and where I preached my first homily the day after being ordained a deacon.
Sunday, October 21, was the "main event": the canonization. The crowd was huge--clearly larger than expected, since I (like many other folks who had tickets) couldn't get a seat. Despite the inconveniences, it was a real celebration: one filled with much joy. Among the throngs of people, I did however manage to find Sr. Mary Christine Taylor, SSJ--a friend going back to seminary days--who was traveling with the Mohawks of Akwesasne, among whom she has worked so faithfully for decades. We wrapped up the day with a visit to my alma mater, the Pontifical North American College, where we toured about, joined the community for Vespers, and then enjoyed a light supper as guests of another dear friend, Sr. Rebecca Abel, the College's librarian.
Monday, October 22, began with a beautiful Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. (This was the "official" Canadian celebration; there was a separate American one at St. Peter's later that day. It's kind of unfortunate they didn't bring both groups together.) Afterwards, we visited the Coliseum and Roman Forum, and then the church of San Clemente, with its beautiful mosaics and fascinating excavations.
Tuesday, October 23, started out at St. Peter's Basilica where out little group celebrated Mass at the altar of St. Basil the Great, beneath which are preserved the relics of St. Josaphat, Ruthenian bishop and martyr. We then enjoyed a private tour of the Vatican Gardens and the barracks of the papal Swiss Guard, both led by a former member of the guard who's a longtime friend of one in our group. (I didn't get any shots of inside the barracks--sorry!--so you'll just have to take my word for it that all those uniforms, swords, and armored helmets were really, really cool.)
Wednesday, October 24, included the weekly Papal Audience out in St. Peter's Square. (As you can see, I had a seat this time...and a pretty good one, at that.) Another large crowd gathered to hear the Holy Father's address, part of a continuing series on the Year of Faith. He also made the surprise announcement of a Consistory next month for the creation of six new Cardinals. (No, I wasn't on the list.) In the afternoon, I made my way back to St. Peter's for a prayerful visit among the many folks who were visiting the place.
And Thursday, October 25, found us a little weary and making the long, long trip home.
It was good to go. It's good to be back.