During my husband’s tenure, he has taken groups of architecture students to study in Rome and travel all through Italy, for a semester abroad , similar to his trips to India. David always says that “Professors don’t get rich but there are other perks, mainly travel!”
I have been in Rome for three semesters and our children were with us twice when they were much younger. . . . . a life changing experience. I taught them as “home schooling” long before that practice has gained so much popularity. We would have school in the mornings and field trips in Rome in the afternoon. I was always amazed at how much we could accomplish in just several hours even though they were 6 years apart in age and grade level. Lots of time in school is spent on logistics and discipline!
Wednesdays at the Vatican are full of excitement because this is the day of the Papal audience. On a clear day, there can be 30,000 to 100,000 pilgrims amassed in St Peter’s Square.
The experience is much like a sports’ game with delegations waving their country’s flag. The Pope speaks to each group in their native language, or at least John Paul did. There is much crowding and people are straining to get as close as possible. There is no cost, but you must get tickets on Tuesday for this free event, purely for crowd control. We went to the outside audience a number of times. We didn’t mandate attendance , but I encouraged the students that he was an historical figure, a leader of the world and there was not religious service. Nonetheless several didn’t want to go which was their choice , of course.
There is another option of spaces depending on the weather. You see this lovely building in the first picture of the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall which has 6, 3000 seats obviously much smaller than the piazza. People are encouraged to arrive at least 2 hours ahead of time for a seat, even with tickets.
An indoor papal audience inside the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican (Photo by Father Maurer)
Here is Pope Benedict, I think after he has arrived, flanked by priests and protected by the Swiss Guard. But it is the Pope’s entrance to the hall I want to share with you. If you look back to the first picture you can see an aisle through the middle of the throng that is the entrance way used as he moves to the front of the room.
Katie, Chris , and I were in the middle somewhere , pretty far from the isle. There was a huge crowd singing, pushing and talking as the appointed hour approached. We sat next to a nun from Spain. It is customary for religious leaders to wear their robes and or habits while living in or visiting Rome. She spoke English and was telling me that in Spain, even in the 80s that priests and nuns could be attacked on the streets so they had changed to lay clothing. She told me to have the children move through the crowds toward the isle because that was where the Pope would enter. I felt a little awkward as I am not really a pusher for position kind of a person, but decided to let them go. Katie was in her early teens and would keep an eye on her little brother. The nun and I stood on our chairs. All of a sudden there was a roar of the crowd with applause and a cheer. John Paul was in the house! People were holding statutes and rosaries to be blessed, straining to see, and pushing to get closer. This was a totally new experience for a protestant from the United States. It took him about 30 minutes to move from side to side of the aisle as he blessed and touched the faithful along the way. Respectfully a rock star’s welcome.
As he neared the papal seat, my children pushed back to their seats.. Katie was so excited as she said, “He blessed me , touching my head!” She gave the Spanish Nun a big hug of thanks. That is a special moment that neither she nor I will ever forget.
Chris did not receive a special blessing from the Pope that day , but was blessed from being in Rome many years later. He took a year off from the University of Virginia and went to Rome with his Dad and a group of students for part of the semester. During that time , he met and fell in love with Demone, his wife!
The Eternal City is very near and dear to our family. More Roman tales in the near future !
I would love to hear your thoughts and or experiences in Italy or Rome particularly !