This past Wednesday, I went to St. Peter’s Square to see Pope Francis, in person, at his papal audience. Our whole group of over 30 people woke up early to get to St. Peter’s by 6:00 am, so that we could be first in line to see our Pope. I admit that I didn’t have the best attitude in the early morning. I complained more than once as we all waited in a cluster outside the gates of the Vatican. All of that changed, however, once we got our front row seats inside St. Peter’s Square.
St. Peter’s Square is majestic. In the center of the square stands St. Peter’s Obelisk, which is said to be approximately 4,000 years old. I am not kidding. It is literally from the 2000’s BC. This means that Abraham and Moses could have seen this exact Obelisk. The Obelisk was originally erected in Egypt then moved to Rome. It’s hard to believe that it could be possible to move a monument so huge across the Mediterranean. The Obelisk is named after St. Peter because it is said to be the last thing that Peter saw before he died. Around the Obelisk are walls of giant white pillars with 140 statues of saints. I wished that I had binoculars to see all the statues up closer. To the right of the basilica is a giant statue of St. Peter himself holding the keys to heaven. As we waited patiently for the pope to arrive, the sun rose higher in the sky, and the square became even more beautiful.
Finally, Pope Francis appeared and the crowd went wild! He drove around the edges of the crowds looking so loving and joyful in the Lord. When he came around to our side, my heart just about stopped. I was within 5 feet of Pope Francis. He paused near us and took a note from a child standing next to me. I was close enough to talk to Pope Francis, but what does someone like me say to the successor of St. Peter? I felt a similar emotion to what I felt when my uncle was ordained a priest this past summer. Both made me think about the responsibility that these men have undertaken when the pledged their lives to God. Seeing Pope Francis in person was a humbling, inspiring, and life-changing experience.
I kept thinking, this is what it’s all about. I am in Rome for Catholic Studies, and the pope is the head of the Catholic Church and the successor of St. Peter. It clicked for me in that moment. None of this–the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis, the Catholic Church–would have been possible without St. Peter as the rock and foundation. Without him, I would never be in Rome studying Catholic Studies. All roads lead to St. Peter.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
I miss all of my family and friends in Minnesota! Thank you for reading about my travels! I really appreciate your support, and I can’t wait to tell you more in person.