It’s nearly impossible for me to watch this stunning Rome Reports video recapping the Beatification of Blessed John Paul II, held two years ago today in Rome, and not cry overwhelmed tears of gratitude and awe.
Truthfully, it’s good to re-watch this “up close” video, because my vantage point that day was far from the spot where all of the action was happening. Here’s a peek at me that day and the less-than-squeaky-clean environment I experienced during the Beatification:
If I look like something the cat dragged in, it’s because my flight to Rome landed about two hours before the start of the Mass in St. Peter’s Square. I landed, grabbed my suitcase, met my driver — who could give Mario Andretti a run for his money — and raced to make the start of the Mass. I’d flown for a day to get there, hadn’t had a shower, and could only think about how badly I’d feel if I missed being physically present after having come so far. Somehow, my driver got me through three police barricades and I arrived just at the start of the Mass. I was about as far away as I could possibly be from the altar, and this photo doesn’t really show the absolute crush of humanity that was packed in around me. At certain points, I could have lifted my feet from the ground and still have been moved forward by the sheer mass of the crowd of assembled worshippers.
I remember closing my eyes during the Our Father, smelling the pungent smells around me and hearing the voices of the congregation, and counting no fewer than ten languages reciting the Lord’s Prayer. I cried through most of the ceremony – I could barely understand a word of what was going on, couldn’t see anything, and yet there’s nowhere I would have rather been that day. In a way, it felt so right to be in the “cheap seats” amidst the everyday folks, those who had loved this Papa with all of their might and who — like me — had come from so many places across the globe to witness a saint being made.
That day, May 1, 2o11, unfolded in miraculous ways. After Mass, I moved into what we now refer to lovingly as the “Catholic Media Villa”. Several of us had learned only a handful of days prior to the Beatification that we’d been invited to attend the Vatican Bloggers Meeting. The forward thinking Lisa Wheeler of Carmel Communications had done what she does best, reaching out to us homeless bloggers and offering us a bed in the villa she’d rented two blocks away from the Vatican. When I checked in that day, I met my roomie — and now amazing friend — Kathy Schiffer for the very first time. Lisa W. roomed with the incredible Alexis Walkenstein, who looked like something out of a fashion magazine and was even nicer than she was gorgeous. And on the couch was a fresh-faced young guy who looked my son’s age… a certain Brandon Vogt who has become one of my biggest Catholic media mentors and whose friendship I treasure vastly.
The night of the Beatification, we assembled on the roof of our Villa to toast the life of Blessed John Paul II. I can’t even begin to tell you the “who’s who” of folks who gathered under the Vatican stars that night — I was deliriously tired and happier than I can describe. Over the course of the next few days, my Vatican adventure unfolded, bringing into my life my dear editor, Elizabeth Scalia, a true anchor for so many of us and now a dear sister in Christ. I could seriously write a book about those days and the new colleagues who came into my life — the memories are so sweet and precious. I’ll spare you the details, but will spend the day remembering when…
I ask you to remember what you were doing that day — May 1, 2011 and to ponder how your life has changed since then and what that man, that saint, Blessed John Paul II has meant to you, how he’s drawn you closer to Christ. I can look at the moment of Blessed John Paul II’s beatification and clearly feel his touch upon so much that’s happened in my life and my apostolate since then.
Do I merit the incredible doors he’s opened for me or the gifts he’s showered upon me?
Most definitely not.
Am I grateful for the constancy of his spiritual companionship and the invitation he proffered to so many of us to find our own ways to be a part of this incredible New Evangelization?