The Vatican Visitor’s Office is located just a stones throw away from the Trevi Fountain. When we arrived we were greeted by Sister Maria. Sister Maria led us to the small office and handed me the four tickets for the audience with the Pope for the following day. Father Brad, a young priest from Michigan was hearing confession. This was a special blessing, because I had a lot of venial sins I needed to rid myself of.  As I walked in, Father Brad was sitting on an over stuffed blue brocade velvet chair. Father Brad motioned with his hand for me to sit down. The room looked more like a cozy living area than a confessional. I sat on a worn out faded green couch to the right of Father Brad.  I confessed my sins, and right when I thought all my sins were divulged, the Holy Spirit quicken my mind about my great disappointment toward the Pope.  As the holy priest closed his eyes, he articulated his words almost as if he was having mystical visions when he spoke. Father Brad’s kind, gentle words absolved me of my anger.

Sister Maria and me                   

This confession was most important to help me continue the journey in peace. This peace made a great difference in my spirit as I was indifferent about seeing the Pope the following day. There was no excitement, but thanks to the confession, instead of enmity, my mood shifted to empathy.

From Helen’s iPhone

My righteous anger was in check the morning of the audience. We left in plenty of time to secure good seats. I had all of my Holy items, plus water from Lourdes for the papal blessing. I told Helen to get ready with her iPhone so she could get a good shot of the Pope. I sat back and watched as others yelled with excitement, I thought how two years ago I was just as elated, rushing the crowd to get the best frame. Sadly not today, something was off, and as the Pope passed by, I held the button on my iPhone, taking several shots. I saw the Pope as a man, a regular man through great mercy. I overheard a conversation of two English-speaking women saying, “I feel different, don’t you? She asked her companion.” I too felt different but not like them, they were blessed, I felt sadness.

The wedding couples waiting for the sacramental blessings

The message from the Pope was encouraging on this particular Wednesday. Pope Francis elaborated about the importance of marriage, and how to make love the focal point in a relationship. My heart was distracted, and as much as tried to follow, the Pope’s words were lost in translation, not because of the language, but because of heaviness I was feeling for our Church.

The other pilgrims were more gracious and as I concentrated on their excitement, and I wondered if one day this feeling would return.

I loved seeing young married couples dressed in their wedding attire, waiting to get a special blessing for the start of their sacramental union. This restored hope in my heart. Recalling words of wisdom that Father Brad shared, “The Holy Spirit will always be in charge of our Catholic Church and God will always be her protector not man.”

St. Lawrence Basilica

The following morning we visited St. Lawrence outside the walls. A young matted hair girl sat at the steps of the basilica with her frail hand extended for alms, both Mike and Larry obliged.

This basilica is simple, and yet beautiful. We stopped and prayed at the confessio where St. Lawrence, St. Steven and,  Justin are all buried. These saints were all martyred for their belief.

The holy relics, Holy Cross in Jerusalem
Holy Cross inJerusalem

I recently discovered The Holy Cross in Jerusalem at our last visit to Rome. It is walking distance from St. John Lateran.  St. Helena, Contestine’s mother reverently brought treasures of relics from Jerusalem. You can feel the anointing as soon as you step into basilica. Wood from Jesus’s cross, a nail from the cross, St. Thomas’s finger, the sign written in three languages reading: “Jesus King of The Jews.” and a thorn from our Lord’s crown, are all preserved there.

We traveled along the Appian Way, the same route that The Apostle Paul took to reach Rome before his trial. We reached St. Sebastian Church, and walked through the damp, claustrophobic catacombs 30 feet underground making our way up the basilica. St. Sebastian was martyred during the persecution of the Christian and his body is also in this basilica.

Mike and Helen taking care of business
Mike getting our boarding pass
Helen and me, the beautiful Tiber River
Our last night in Rome, Larry, Helen, me, and Mike

On every trip that I’ve taken, there is always that person that takes charge, and knows exactly what to do. Almost as if our guardian angels are asked to step aside, these people take over. On this trip both Mike and Helen did all the work, they were the agents that knew all the right roads to take, how to use a credit card at the gas station, how to pay the tolls, and how to get to the right gates. Larry and I just watched in amazement, and smiled, reading each others minds saying, “Thank God I don’t have to do that!” Thank you Mike and Helen for your servanthood, we weary travelers appreciate all that you do.

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