World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Rome Sweet Home!

Friday – August 12, 2011 – 9:30pm – Domus Pacis/Torre Rossa Park Hotel – San Giovanni Building – Room #270 – Rome, Italy

Rome Sweet Home! Ladies and Gentleman I have crossed an item off of my bucket list. I have been to The Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica!!! It still hasn’t hit me yet. Too much in a state of awe right now. Probably the next time I see the Pope on TV is when I’ll realize where I just visited. 🙂

So we started off our day at the Vatican Museum. Let me say that this was the first of many instances today where I had to deal with long lines and big crowds. Patience was something I had many chances to practice today. Most of what we saw in the Museum was neat stuff, but nothing that really gave me the wow factor. It’s probably because I’m not an art connoisseur. Anyhoo, I think we all know that the part I was most looking forward to was The Sistine Chapel. To see something so famous with my own two eyes was unbelievable. During our time in The Sistine Chapel I just closed my eyes and imagined Michelangelo and his army of artists creating that masterpiece. Or a roomful of bishops discussing things during Vatican II. Or a bunch of cardinals voting on the next Pope. After The Sistine Chapel we made our way into St. Peter’s Basilica. This was the real reason I’ve been so excited about this trip. The moment I first walked in was surreal.

It’s so stinkin’ huge and beautiful that words almost cannot describe it. We saw everything there was to see, but I’ll just list my highlights. 🙂 #1 – The Cupola (huge ornate dome) which is right above #2 – The Baldacchino (sculpture-esque canopy thing above the main altar). The baldacchino is the one single image my mind was always first drawn to when I would see St. Peter’s Basilica on TV or think about it. Of course getting to observe the massive length of the church was amazing. They even have markers on the floor to show where the next 4 biggest churches in the world stop at. (The Basilica is the largest church in the world). The Holy Spirit window on the back wall was extremely beautiful. A huge blessing was getting to see another incorruptible, Blessed Pope John XXIII. Incorruptibles so far have been an awesome way of making the saints and their lives more real to me. After that was the famous Pieta marble sculpture (Mary holding Jesus’ body) Then, I got to see my first and most beloved Pope, Blessed John Paul II. I love Benny 16, but JP2 is my first love! 🙂

After praying at his tomb, we celebrated Mass @ the San Giovanni side chapel inside The Basilica. Participating in The Mass @ The Basilica is something I’ll never forget. The our guided tour ended there. Me and one of the other pilgrims went to a souvenir shop down the main street (Via Conciliazione). Grabbed a drink after going to the restroom. Then we headed back to The Basilica to climb the steps to The Cupola. Got some great shots of it from the outside as well as alot of good scenery shots (including some of the big square/courtyard in front of The Basilica). Got to go inside the Cupola and THAT’S when I realized how big this church is. Yeah, it obviously looks huge from the ground up. BUT, to be inside the Cupola and see the people below look as small as ants, just blew my mind.

Then we made our way outside and took turns getting some good photos of each other with The Basilica in the background. Saw the big obelisk thing and got some good pics of that (it’s MASSIVE). Saw the Swiss Guard and their goofy outfits. The last noteworthy item of the day happened at supper @ the hotel earlier tonight. As we were eating, a group of WYD pilgrims form the states sat on the other side of the dining room. During a lull in the convo at my table, I look over to see them & who else do I see but Tony Melendez! He’s the Catholic musician with no arms that plays guitar with his feet and sings. I’ve seen him on TV and in books many times. I’ve also seen him perform at Abbey Fest in Covington when I was a seminarian. Ran to my room to grab my camera. Came back and talked with him and then got a pic with him. 🙂 As you can tell it was an absolutely amazing/awesome day. One I’ll never forget. I’d better go get some sleep because tomorrow we travel to LOURDES!!!!

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