Tag Archives: Papa Francesco

Papa Francesco, the Marines and Me

6 Oct
“You are invited to an audience with the Pope,” said my friend Holly from Las Vegas. I knew there was an audience every Wednesday, and I knew there was some method to get tickets, but I never bothered to try and get them. Thanks to a quartet of visiting retired Marines, I was included in an invitation and tickets provided by the Bishop of Las Vegas. (Connections in our “business” are strange. Holly is a Protestant, like me, but her community activities on behalf of our employer bring her in touch with the Bishop and he offered
Night is just leaving the sky as I wait in the shadows, outside the colonnade.

Night is just leaving the sky as I wait in the shadows, outside the colonnade.

her this fabulous opportunity.)  So early one Wednesday morning in September, I made my way before dawn to Piazza San Pietro and stood in mob for 90 minutes, from 06:30 to 08:00, to gain entrance and get a good seat. Luckily we were blessed with a perfect autumn day and our early arrival meant seats right against the fence along the path Papa Francesco would take in his pope-mobile.
The first rays of sun hit St. Peter's Basilica shortly after we are admitted.

The first rays of sun hit St. Peter’s Basilica shortly after we are admitted.

Before dawn the Roman Metro is amazingly busy as working folks head to the places they maintain for our use during the working day. And never before have I taken the first bus out of our neighborhood at dark and lonely 05:30. Then the long walk to the piazza, around to the south side, past vendors of trinkets one can have blessed by his Holiness.  Rosaries, medallions, pictures, crosses, all available from probably-not-Catholic vendors from Pakistan.
There was a lot of waiting before the crowd began to murmur and there were glimpses of the great man riding through the square in his white open-top converted something-or-other. (Is it a Jeep?) The audience is supposed to being at 10:30, but this pope is known for starting early, at 10:00. Shortly before 10:00 he passed our forward position. I tell you the man radiates charm and goodwill!
Papa!

Papa!

The audience is conducted in seven languages: Italian, French, German, English, Polish, Spanish and Arabic. The Pope gives a homily in Italian, this is then paraphrased in each language. Special greetings are offered to pilgrimage groups in their languages, again repeated in each of the other languages. As each language is spoken the receptive native speakers cheer.  I was perplexed by the inclusion of Arabic. I have to say that after the Arabic portion, I did not hear any resounding cheers from an Arabic component. I have to wonder if he includes Arabic every week, or if it is included currently as a demonstration that there are Arabic-speaking Christians, too, a counter-point to the ISIS threat against the Catholic Church.
I was "this close" as he rode by. I've heard he gives his handlers heart failure as he is so difficult to guard. His openness is delightful.

I was “this close” as he rode by. I’ve heard he gives his handlers heart failure as he is so difficult to guard. His openness is delightful.

So about those Marines. These are four women who served our country a total of 120 years-or-so. I had the privilege of hanging out with them for a day and a dinner, giving a tour of the Embassy and also introducing them to our fine Marine Security Guard. They spent a couple of weeks touring Italy from North to South, wrapping up here in the Eternal City. They certainly made my week more interesting!  
With a gazillion people in the audience, Jumbotrons are essential.

With a gazillion people in the audience, Jumbotrons are essential.

The audience reaches back to the far end of the piazza. We are in the front 20% or so, thanks to the Bishop of Las Vegas.

The audience reaches back to the far end of the piazza. We are in the front 20% or so, thanks to the Bishop of Las Vegas.

 

Took the Marines to my favorite trattoria.The owner, Paolo, joined the fun and treated us to figs and prosciutto. It pays to be a regular...

Took the Marines to my favorite trattoria.The owner, Paolo, joined the fun and treated us to figs and prosciutto. It pays to be a regular…

Once a Marine, always a Marine, I am told. They are retired; never "ex" and never "former."

Once a Marine, always a Marine, I am told. They are retired; never “ex” and never “former.”

Holly, Victoria, Mary Ellen and Patricia, great new friends!

Holly, Victoria, Mary Ellen and Patricia, great new friends!

Holly and me by the Reclining Silenus, a Roman Imperial era statue on the embassy grounds.

Holly and me by the Reclining Silenus, a Roman Imperial era statue on the embassy grounds.

Year in Review

1 Jan

The older we get the faster time seems to move. (It’s an actual phenomenon that has been scientifically proven: the older you are the faster time seems to pass.) Only yesterday it seems we were dying of the heat in Rome, taking refuge in the mighty Dolomites enjoying brisk mountain air and alpine meadows. But that was July. Looking back over our time in Rome – now 19 months and counting – we have experienced so much, and yet my list of to-dos in Rome (not to mention all of Italy)  has more things on it that we have not accomplished than ones we have managed to check off. There’s a wonder around every corner and we shall never get to all of them. Roma: Una vita non basta!

New Year's Eve Vespers with Papa F! We were right on the aisle. Ric snapped this pic with his phone.

New Year’s Eve Vespers with Papa F! We were right on the aisle. Ric snapped this pic with his phone.

We managed to see a bit more of Italy this year, visiting some old favorites as well as new territory.

  • March saw us in Sicily for our 28th anniversary, where we were constantly cold, but where we ate magnificent food and saw our first-ever Greek ruins. Stunning! Must go back in warmer weather.
  • In May we ventured to the heel of the boot, Puglia, with my brother and sister-in-law. More great food, a fantastically different Italy, and lots of kilometers covered. Can’t count the bottles of wine consumed. Rick & Jane, we had so much fun with you those 10 days in Rome and Puglia! And we “discovered” Abruzzo on our way back to Rome. Wow!
  • In fact we were so enchanted with Abruzzo we went back for a weekend in July. Not many North Americans (or non-Italians) go to Abruzzo as it is not chock-a-block with must-sees, but it is an amazing place to escape the city, practice one’s Italian, and relax.
  • Later in July was our week in the Val Gardena. If only we could figure out a way to live there all summer.
  • Like most Italians, we got away for Ferragosto but only as far as Orvieto for a couple of nights.  It’s always nice to get on a train, and only an hour away is this charming Etruscan hill town.
  • Our youngest son came to visit in September and we made our 4th trip to Venice in less than three years. Three days there flew by and in wonderment Derek observed we still had not seen everything we intended to. Venice has a lot to offer and so many people try to “do” it in 2 nights and one day. We’re going back for the 5th time in April with friends who have never been.
  • The Cinque Terre calls to us each autumn and we made our third trip there in October. Hoping we can squeeze in a weekend there again in 2014.
  • After the Marine Corps 238th Birthday Ball in early November, we made a trek to Ravello just as the town was closing for the season. This is a must-go-back location sometime during the concert season.
Kids, don't try this at home. Our neighbor across the street shot off Roman Candles from his oh-so-tiny balcony on NYE. Note the Santa figure climbing a ladder hanging from the balcony. And this goes on all over the city!

Kids, don’t try this at home. Our neighbor across the street shot off Roman Candles from his oh-so-tiny balcony on NYE. Note the Santa figure climbing a ladder hanging from the balcony. And this goes on all over the city!

Other highlights in 2013:

  • I turned sixty. Can’t believe it, but my mother is there in the mirror every morning, so I guess it’s true.
  • We had a blind date with Nigel and Carol, new friends from England that we met through the Rick Steves’ Helpline and this blog. Hoping to see them again in February!
  • Made Thanksgiving dinner for 11 Italians. We had so much fun doing this! I only hope they will let us do it again next year.
  • Seeing our youngest son (not very young anymore, but still il mio bambino al cuore) after 16 months away.
  • Getting fit(ter) in the gym. I’ve lost about 45 pounds since moving to Rome and had to buy a whole new wardrobe last summer and again this winter.
  • Becoming more comfortable speaking Italian. I am “advanced intermediate” (B2/C1 for those that understand the scale) according to my teacher. I should be fluent by the time I am 85.
  • Seeing Tom and Karen, our in-laws, when they visited Rome after their cruise.
  • Visits by Michael Horne for gastronomic exploration of Rome. (Thanks for the intro to Vino Roma!)
  • New Years’ Eve Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica with Papa Francesco. He was right there, not 2 meters from me during the processional and recessional. The energy in St. Peter’s was palpable, the love for this man overwhelming.

As I wrap up this post, we are aboard a train that departed at 07:20 New Year’s Day, leaving

St. Peter's, NYE 2013. I read today that shortly after we left Papa Francesco came out in his Popemobile to see the Nativity in the square. Purtroppo we had left the scene!

St. Peter’s, NYE 2013. I read today that shortly after we left Papa Francesco came out in his Popemobile to see the Nativity in the square. Purtroppo we had left the scene!

Italy for the first time in 19+ months. The sun is just coming up, outlining the Apennine Mountains in gold. We are headed to Switzerland where, magari, we will do Winterwandern (alpine snow hiking) to wear off the cheese fondue we plan to eat. We have many trips planned this year including a return to Venice, the Dolomites, Florence, Lake Como, and Abruzzo. We have guests coming, too: Kim, John and Aubrey in April; John, Susan, William and Elizabeth (aka JSWE) in July; the Omaha Bartons in August; a return by Derek in September; Rick and Jane in November; and hopefully Helen, Eddie and Debbie will make it over too. Anyone else? Would love to see you!

Buon Anno 2014! 

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