Saturday, May 2, 2009

Easter Mass at St. Peter's

EASTER! I woke up this morning at 6 a.m. to get ready for Easter Mass at the Vatican. We had planned to leave the apartment at 7 to get there early and get good seats. We were all very impressed that our plan was executed almost flawlessly as we walked out of the door two minutes early. Rachel reminded me as we started down the first flight of stairs about the tickets however and I ran back up and grabbed them. We made our way to the tram stop and saw that even on Easter Sunday the market was already starting to be in full swing. There was a tram that just left so we waited at the stop for the next one. Of course 5 went by going the other direction without a single one coming by to pick us up. We waited about 15 minutes and decided we had jinxed it by saying everything had gone so flawlessly. One finally came and we were on our way. We were joined by a couple other groups of students that looked like they were headed to Easter Mass as well. We got off at the Tiber River stop and headed towards the Vatican, it was a little chilly so we kept to a pretty brisk pace in hopes that we would warm up a bit. As we walked up the side street to St.Peter’s I laughed when we passed an RV with tourist maps in the front window. I turned around to the girls and said, “See, I knew someone would be camping out.” We all laughed and snapped a picture for memories sake. We continued on our way and finally arrived at the square only to find a small crowd gathering and a completely empty square. It was almost 7:45, but we soon discovered that they weren’t allowing people to go in until 8:30. Of course there was no line, we were in Italy after all. We waited and waited and finally moved up the side instead of waiting and trying to create a line like rational human beings. They finally began to open the gates and the crowd moved us forward whether we wanted to go or not. We were being pushed and shoved by nuns. The guards finally put a stop to the madness by slowing the process down but as soon as people got past them they were off and running like a horse out of the gates. Little old ladies and nuns, sprinting to get the best seats, I was in absolute shock. We were some of the first 100 in and ended up getting really good seats, near the middle only about 8 rows back. We took our seats and prepared ourselves for the 2 hour wait that lie ahead of us. Rachel had come prepared with crossiants, peeps, cards and her Angels and Demons book. We took pictures and hung out for a while but eventually resorted to playing a round of Go fish and then just sitting and wondering when something would happen. Around 10:00 things finally started to happen. The Swiss Guard and Band came around and everyone was up on their chairs trying to see them and get pictures, we were too far from any side to really get a great pic but we managed to get some pretty good views. It was a pretty intense entrance. They lined up on one side and another set of guard lined the opposite side. As soon as they were all set the Pope began to make his entrance with the large processional of other bishops and priests. We were a little sad because if we had been near an aisle we would have been able to see him up close and personal, he was even reaching out and touching people but we had our share at the papal audience. He made his way up the stairs and we began the mass. It was a beautiful service. The choir was great. It was all male with younger voices along with well trained seasoned ones. They sang “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” in English, one of my favorite Easter songs so I was happy. Most of the mass was in Latin but hey did at least one part in every major language. The pope gave the homily in Italian. They prepared for communion and we saw a mass of priests come out. There were like 5 rows of at least 10 on each side of the altar. They did the offering and people representing different nations brought up the gifts to the pope and got to kiss his hand and be blessed. I was nearly crying at the thought of being blessed personally by the pope. We went through the Eucharistic ceremony and the priests went out into the crowd accompanied by a security man with a yellow and white umbrella so that they could be spotted in the crowd. Then they administered communion to the masses. I was so amazed. It was so crazy. After communion we finished the service and then the Pope made his way to the balcony to deliver his Easter message. It took a bit and all the while the crowd was waving flags and cheering, “Benedicto,” and “Viva Papa.” They showed on the screen the arial view of the square and all the way back into the street was packed with people. I was in shock and here we were in the 8th row at Easter Sunday mass at the Vatican. The Pope gave his address in Italian but I understood that he was saying that Jesus Christ was crucified and died for us so that we would be forgiven of our sins and could enjoy eternal life in the Kingdom of his Father. He also said that we should strive to walk in the way of the light of Christ. Past that I got caught up in translation, but that’s the main just of it. He prayed for peace in the world, in Africa, Israel and Palestine. Then he addressed the crowd in every language I think I’ve ever head existed, we lost count there had to be at least 30. It was really neat. The crowd cheered as he stood and gave the final benediction and left the balcony. We decided our best exit strategy was to find the nearest one and get out instead of trying to get to the back of the square and go that way. We managed to maneuver our way through pretty efficiently and made it out back to the main street by the Tiber in very good time. We walked back to the tram and took it back to our apartment. It was almost one, but we were all really tired so we decided to take a nap before we started our Easter dinner feast. I broke out the candy and had some skittles, chocolate and a part of a Fanta before I lay down to take a 2 hour nap and wake up at 3 to start making dinner. Rachel and I ended up staying asleep till 5 and we woke up to find that Kristin had the table set with a center piece and napkins all fancied up. I went into to start helping her cook. She was just starting to cook the hamburger for the pizza. I got out the crust and we started to contemplate just how we were going to make a bunny shaped pizza. It wasn’t that hard and I just used one for its head and then cut out two ears from the other crust. We had all the meat cooked and started to sauce the pizza and place the cheese on it to look like eyes, cheeks, and a nose. Then we put hamburger all around the facial features and put cheese on the ears. We managed to fit it on the oven pan thing and then put it in to bake. We finished up the rest of our meal. Rachel made asparagus, I made a fruit salad, and Kristin already had a salad ready. After the pizza was done we all gathered at the “dining room” table, well the 5 of us that were home and sat down to have our Easter dinner. It was really nice. The food was good and we pretty much finished everything off. After food we broke out the Colomba, a traditional Italian Easter dessert. It’s a cake that’s supposedly shaped like a dove, though we were all pretty skeptical of that. When Kristin and I went grocery shopping it seemed like everyone had these boxes with handles that had a cake inside so we decided to get one just to be authentic. We opened the box and Rachel did the honors of cutting the cake, after all she had seen Claudio do it (her Italian teacher). Then we sampled the delicacy. It was pretty strange, more bread like than cake, but over all it wasn’t too bad. A good Easter day.

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