Sunday, April 27, 2014

Magnificent scenes... history is made in Rome and two saints are sealed for ever into the life of the Church...

Crowds of people were  camping out, sleeping in shop doorways or in makeshift camps in the piazzas of Rome, ready for the opening of St Peter's Square in the early hours for the canonisation Mass. 

And I do mean crowds...over a million in St Peter's Square, and there must have been at least another million in the Piazza Farnese and the Piazza Navone and the various other places  around the city where vast TV screens had been erected and everyone joined in the Mass that way.

 J. and I joined the huge throng in the Piazza Navone, where the screen came courtesy of Polish TV - everyone followed the Mass, and at the consecration there was complete silence, the crowd had fallen in its knees, as if in a great cathedral.

The crowds have been joyful, and the weather perfect - a cool and pleasant morning, with the efficient Red Cross teams left with little to do as no one fainted or felt ill, and the great stacks of bottled water still standing like enormous green haystacks in their green wrappers. At St Peter's, the Holy Father celebrated the Mass with great dignity: there was a touching moment as he greeted Papa Benedict on arrival, and a sense of the timelessness of the Church mixed with the sense of something huge and memorable happening.

You can get a flavour of the thing by looking here 

and here...

and, well, just about every other media outlet, too.  Most have commented on the huge crowds, and on the enormous numbers of Poles - "Is there anyone still at home in Poland?" some one asked...there have been white-and-red flags everywhere, many carrying the names of Polish towns, some carrying messages saying 'Thank you' in Polish and also in English...also on the joy, and on the youth and resilience of the people, sleeping out on cobblestones, praying and singing late into the night...

Most mainstream media commentators, however, have failed to note the most impressive scenes: in Rome's churches, young people in huge numbers kneeling in silent prayer, or lining up to confess to priests, or singing together, or saying the Rosary. These are not tourists or people attending an event - they are pilgrims.  As they go around the city, they carry their flags and banners with pride. Priests leading groups have a sort of fatherly concern as they scurry about. There has been a great sense of energy and vigour in Rome over these past few days, with so many young nuns, and priests, and backpackers, and family groups. And so much goodwill - despite apparent discomforts, everyone seems cheerful and the mood has been friendly and upbeat...

This afternoon, as people dispersed for late lunches  in various cafes and restaurants (I've met so many friends, spent lots of time introducing people, reconnecting with friends from Australia, from various parts of Europe, from London, from my own corner of South London...)  and then, gently, the rain fell, glistening on the cobbles, ushering in a cool evening.

There are all sorts of events, gatherings, celebrations, parties, this evening, as people make good use of their time in Rome.And it feels as though the Church of all the ages is celebrating with us, the joy echoing through the magnificent great churches and the cobbled passages and the glowing chattery rooms and the talk and the friendship and the fundamental happiness of it all.


EuropeanCatholic said...

Dear Joanna,

Reading this post and watching all the wonderful coverage from Rome makes me want to return to the Eternal City as soon as possible!

I have read in recent weeks your two new books:

John Paul II, Man of Prayer. the
Spiritual Life of a Saint

St John XXIII and St John Paul II Prayer Book

I thoroughly enjoyed reading them.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Did anyone else notice how breathless Papa Berg. seemed?