This blog is still on a folder in my PC, but experiences do not wait for a website to go online.
This morning I went to St. Peter’s to celebrate Mass for a small group coming from the South (and they were heading afterwards to a jambalaya cook-off in Austria–I kid you not). Another father from my Center also had a Mass there, or so he thought, and we headed there by car. Living in Rome is full of unique experiences; whenever you think you know the rhythm of things something new presents itself. We turned onto a small street a few blocks away from St. Peter’s Square and ran into a garbage truck emptying dumpsters. Since it was a narrow street, we had to wait as they wheeled four dumpsters, one by one, to the back of the truck, and then hooked them up to a mechanism to lift them up and empty them into the truck. It was fascinating.
A motorino (moped rider) pulled up right behind one of the netturbini (sanitation worker) and she had to move out of the way to let him zip by (our car was small, but not small enough). Some tourists approached too on foot and hesitated briefly, probably out of fear of getting trash dumped on them, and then walked by. A few minutes later we were on our way and when we arrived at the Square it was closed. Completely. That doesn’t happen. I met up with the group outside the Square and we headed to the entrance into Vatican City that’s usually for going to Paul VI Hall for a Papal Audience. Once there we discovered that they were only letting in groups that had made a reservation down in the crypt beneath the Basilica. The President of Italy (Sergio Mattarella) was coming that morning to visit Pope Francis and the Basilica was closed.
Fortunately my group had a reservation, but the other father wasn’t so fortunate: his reservation had never been confirmed. Combining groups wasn’t an option (he was celebrating for Spanish speakers), and he took it all in stride and went with his group to a nearby parish and they let him say Mass there. After passing two security checks they allowed us into the Basilica by a side entrance and it was amazing to see the Basilica so empty and everything cleared from the middle. It was the photo op of a lifetime. We made it down to the crypt for Mass only to find someone else had taken our chapel. Fortunately a nearby chapel was empty so we had a beautiful Mass. Afterwards there was no security pressure so the group stayed inside a while and took some great photos as I headed back to the Center.
Wrinkles in our plans? Unexpected setbacks? Certainly. But nobody complained and everything worked out and in some ways even better that we could have imagined.