Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica began by standing in a very, very long line. The line was moving pretty good, so we didn’t worry about getting to mass on time. Our attitude was easy going. We’ll get in when we get in. Whatever happens, happens. How can you be rushed or stressed when you are in Rome, standing in St. Peter’s Square on a Sunday? It was all good. When the group of Italians cut in front of us in line, we still had that attitude. We were all getting in the church, eventually. No worries. When they started talking Italian and saying “Americans” we knew they were laughing at the stupid Americans they cut in line in front of. When they brought out food and started sharing it with their group, we knew they couldn’t possibly be going to mass. But, still, we rolled with it. The line was moving quickly, we didn’t worry about getting in. We passed through the security check-point and into the building we went.
Once inside there was a blockade. Apparently not all the people in line were going to mass and there was a guard that kept those people away from the small area, within the immense basilica, where mass was being celebrated. First we had to get to him, say, “Mass.” then we were allowed forward. The mass was said in Italian, they sang one song in English, but it was pretty easy to follow since each mass is pretty much the same. The only difference was the homily, but who doesn’t love hearing Italian spoken even if you don’t understand a word? The lovely peaceful feeling we received in St. Peter’s Basilica washed over our group. Little smiles of contentment traveled with each of us as we walked toward the doorway after mass. Then we saw the rain. None of us brought umbrellas. I didn’t have a coat or even a sweater. The crowd was overwhelming.
We were body to body. When we lost two members of our group we decided we needed to hold onto each other so nobody else would be swept away. Bodies were pushing us from the back, from the side, toward the square. At one point the crowd stopped and we were caught underneath the drainpipe downspout. Cold water hit us like a waterfall and sucked the breath right out of us, each in turn, as we struggled to move away from it. It was noon and the Pope was in his window speaking, but we couldn’t stop to look up and see him for more than a few seconds. The sky had opened up, the crowd was pushing, and the downspout was soaking us through. We were stuck in a sea of people all trying to leave at the same time. We held onto each other as if the person in front would save us from being pulled into the river and drowned.
As the crowd began to lessen I noticed a vender selling umbrellas and bought one in a quick movement of hand in pocket, money in hand, exchange of items, up went the umbrella. When I asked “How much?” he willingly took four Euro instead of the five he was asking for. It was quick and when the others turned around and saw me with an umbrella they were shocked. “Where did you get that?” Trudging home, it took longer than usual to get there because of the rain. Because of the slippery cobblestones. Because we wanted to be inside with those members of our group who hadn’t come to mass that day.
Once home, the rest of the day was spent enjoying each other’s company and creating. Writing, posting on our blogs, drawing, chatting, listening to music. Hanging out. What a fun and memorable day! When do you get a day to just hang out with your friends? Inside. The rain was wonderful…once we were inside. The rain was wonderful because it gave us a great story to tell. As we were in St. Peter’s Square being baptized by the Italian precipitation that ran through the downspout, I knew that day would be among one of those moments one always remembers. Although I was uncomfortable, and the peace of mass was pushed away by the throngs of people pushing against us, I was still laughing a bit inside. “These are the moments that make memories!” I called out over the crowd.