To wrap up my eleven day Italian dream trip, I managed to acquire a ticket to the Pope’s Easter mass. And by acquire, I really mean I called Mama Kulka who then worked some Polish networking and within days had tickets ready for me to pick up at the Vatican. The line, “let me call the Vatican,” was used somewhere in this contact chain, which made it all sound very official and important. Illuminati confirmed.
Upon arriving in Rome, I realized that this was the big leagues and it was time to go big or go home. If I was already here for Easter Mass, I was damn well going to see the Pope. I arrived at the Vatican at 6:45 am, about 4 hours before mass started, wearing hiking boots because I knew shit was about to get real.
I got in line behind people who must have been there all night, and looked around and realized I was in for a bad time. It was Easter, but everyone had suddenly forgotten how to be Catholic. There were nuns pushing through the crowd like Moses parting the Red Sea, old men with canes jabbing at anyone who got too close and groups of pimpled teens with their church groups discussing seating strategies like generals discussing a war plan.
The group of high schoolers with their church group were the actual worst of all the Easter offenders. I eavesdropped on the most intense seating strategy, overhearing one say to another, “It’s going to get rough, but you make the call and you go for it. If you get separated from the group, don’t look back.” I wasn’t sure if we were at the Vatican or Vietnam.
After the security checkpoint, I booked it to the aisle seats with a group of Loyola University students I had met in line, who were all studying abroad in Rome. Together we waited about three hours for mass to begin, shivering in the rain and taking turns cuddling to keep warm. You’d be surprised how comfortable you get with strangers when you’re huddled under one polka dotted umbrella for a few hours.
Through mass, I was freezing and wet, and too short to see over the sea of umbrellas. I was starting to doubt why I even wanted to be there in the first place, but suddenly the rain stopped and it was time for the sign of peace. Everyone in the crowd was cold and soaked, but in that moment they were all smiling at one another, shaking hands and hugging. They had come from all over the world to celebrate their faith, and that is a beautiful thing.
After the mass, Papa Francesco made his rounds through the crowd on the Pope mobile and happened to stop right in front of me. Needless to say, I fan-girled over him like tweens do for One Direction.
Overall, Easter mass at the Vatican was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. It was a blessing to share such a special moment with believers from all sorts of walks of life, who all braved the rain and the cold to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, together.