Thursday, April 14, 2005

Funeral For The Pope

I've just returned home from Rome for the Holy Father's funeral and I must say that it was absolutely amazing! It certainly was not an easy trip, between the airlines losing my bag for 5 days and being forced to wear the same clothes for the duration, waiting in line for un-Godly hours just to catch a glimpse of JPII lying in state, or standing in line for even more hours to get into the piazza for the funeral. But even amidst it all it was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had.

The faith of the people I met was simply awe inspiring. There was Margret Young from Texas who I had the privilege of sharing a seat next to on my flight over. Margret is a nurse from Houston who just hopped on a plane when she heard the news even though she had no idea where she was going to stay when getting there. She insisted that I take her copy of the the Pieta prayer book as I had forgotten mine.
There was the lady who worked in the tavola caldo where I ate the morning after the viewing who wanted to know all about my experience seeing him as she didn't have the opportunity to go because of work. She was as excited as I've ever seen anyone when I showed her the pictures of the Pope that I had taken with my camera phone.
There was the woman from Spain who had come with her 3 young sons just to be part of this monumental occurrence. There were students from Australia, a businessman from Ireland, a couple from France, and hundreds of thousands of Polish who came to pay their last respects to their fellow countryman.

Amidst the signs of 'Subito Santo', the chants of 'Giovanni Paolo', and the outpouring of emotion and support for our beloved Pope I came to realize that this really is what Catholicism is all about, unity. Language and cultural barriers were broken all because of this one man who had done so much for so many.

Through out it all I learned a great deal of patience and trust in God. The most personal and heartfelt experience happened to me while coming out of one of the many churches I visited. There was a young boy, no more than 11 years old who was begging for money for his mother whom he said could not work as she had no eye. I of course was suspicious of the story as there are beggars on every corner and next to every church. So I went inside and said a few quick prayers then began to walk out. The boy was still there begging. I began to feel sorry for him so I told him I couldn't give him any money but I would take him to get something to eat. We proceeded to walk to the closest shop for a slice of pizza and drink. After purchasing the food for him I went on my way. About an hour later I myself began to feel the pangs of hunger so I walked into the nearest store front for a slice of pizza. Well, as it turned out they were just about to close so instead of the lady forcing me to give up my last euros for a slice of pizza, she gave me a whole pizza pie for free! I was overcome by emotion as I thought about how close I was to walking away from the boy, on turning my back on someone in need, and how through my unselfish act God had turned around and given me five times what I had given that child.

That one experience alone made the whole trip worthwhile. Of course all the sightseeing, the great food, attending a live soccer game was just icing on the cake. The pictures I took are not nearly what they should be as I was relegated to using a disposable camera and my cell phone for pictures since my digital was still under repair. But you take what you can get and deal with the rest and that's what makes life exciting!