I have no idea what prompted me to go to St. P’s this morning. It has been my pattern to get up, head out for coffee and croissant, and then see what direction my legs turn. Today they went to St. P’s. It wasn’t until I arrive there that I realized that thousands were gathering for a special Mass in the square. I decided to stay, which meant finding my way into the seating area. Easy. I worked my way along a side barrier where police were doing a cursory job of checking people in. There was no cue, but the Italian way is to keep moving, and so I joined in. All was very orderly and efficient, and in five minutes I was through security and had found a seat about twenty-five rows back, which suited me fine. But along came a woman who wanted my seat next to her friend, so she led me to a seat three rows from the front, and there I stayed for the next two and a half hours. It was all very surreal. (Some people were over one hundred rows behind, and many standing behind them)
“Two and a half hours,” you say. “How could you sit so long? You’re not even Catholic.”
Well, let me tell you, it was the best show in town, and thanks to my “good enough” Italian, I understood most of what was going on.. The entire event was perfectly orchestrated—singing and music, a few speeches, the Mass, and then the entry, blessing and talk (speech?) by Popo Benedict XVI (small man, white hair, moved about by himself without help) . The crowd was extremely well organized and in control (when they asked silent prayer, it was silent.), and were thoroughly enjoying themselves and happy to be Catholics cheering for the Pope.