At about noon on Saturday, April 26th, I made my way to St. Peter’s Square to meet up with a few friends. We had been planning for weeks to camp out just outside the square for the historical double canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, which would be presided over by Pope Francis. I literally cannot tell you how excited I was to experience and be a witness to this. In fact, knowing that this would be happening in April served as was one of the many reasons that I chose to study abroad in Rome. I was even more ecstatic when I heard, just a few days before this event, that Pope Emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI, would also be attending.
When my friends and I were finally all together, we walked around looking for a place to spend the rest of the day and what would surely be a long night. We eventually wound up at a cozy spot next to a statue of St. Catherine of Siena near Castel Sant’Angelo. We stayed there until about midnight and then we began the journey towards the square along with the massive crowd. I must have spent the next eight hours standing up and getting pushed and shoved by and along with everyone else around me. Every now and then I found some room on the ground to sit and close my eyes for a little bit. I was tired and beginning to feel incredibly weak, but we all were. I was waiting for my feet to give out on me, but they didn’t. They kept me standing on solid ground.The actual canonization mass did not start until 10 on Sunday morning. By then I had thought of going back home several times because I could no longer stand being on my feet nor being surrounded by people in such confined spaces. But I stayed. I did not get home until Sunday at around 2 in the afternoon, and by then I could not move a muscle.
Regardless of these circumstances, I would do this all over again in a heart beat. And if this were the only thing I did during my study abroad experience, it would be completely worth it. I met so many incredible people: Cathy, whose fearless spirit taught me what it really means to be a pilgrim, a group of young Poles who reminded me to remain joyful, and a few other Americans that encouraged me to stay just when I was ready to leave. But it doesn’t stop there. Early Sunday morning a young Polish man gave me a snack and said, “Don’t be sad. It’s going to be okay. We’re almost there.” It was just what I needed to hear.
This was by no means an easy pilgrimage. No pilgrimage is easy. But it was SO fulfilling. The best part about the entire experience was realizing how alive and universal the Catholic Church really is. I loved being able to witness the canonization (from Via della Conciliazione), but I also enjoyed hearing pilgrims from all over the world praising God with everything they had, singing and dancing included. As I walked home on Sunday I was incredibly tired, but I also was and am still inspired by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that I shared the experience with. I have never been more proud to be a part of the Catholic Church.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Natalie Maria Reynoso and I am currently a junior at Wheaton College, Norton, MA where I study religion and psychology. I am a passionate Catholic and an avid reader and writer. I have always loved writing because it provides me with a way to better understand the world and my place in it.</span></p>