Following a crazy half-hour taxi-ride--there doesn't seem to be any regard for speed limits or turn signals in these parts--I made it to my apartment. There I met some awesome new friends: Lisa Wheeler and Alexis Walkenstein from The Maximus Group, and fellow-blogger Kathy Schiffer. I'm typing this now from my apartment in Rome (where the 'A' is on the map below):
After I settled in to the apartment and picked up some authentic Italian pizza, I needed to meet-up with a friend on the other side of Vatican City. I didn't think the rendezvous would be a too troublesome. If I just cut through St. Peter's square, I thought, I could meet him in about ten minutes--fifteen tops.
So as dusk darkened the skies, I trekked through the Italian streets--without my map of course--boldly marching to the meeting place like I actually knew where I was going.
This was all well and good, except for three problems:
First, St. Peter's square was already blocked off in preparation for the beatification. Second, I realized that most people in and around the Vatican actually speak Italian (not English). So asking for directions typically gets you nothing more than a taste of Babel.
And third, I didn't actually know where I was going.
To make the walk even more problematic, tens of thousands of pilgrims had already packed in around Vatican City. It was tough to see even a sliver of street in between all of the sleeping bags, which blocked all roads around the Vatican's perimeter. Somehow, walking around the crowds, I ended up far away from St. Peter's, and after a handful of phone calls back and forth with my friend, he basically commanded, "OK. You stay where you are and I will come find you."
But despite the confusion and frustration, I walked back to the apartment filled with joy. Throughout the night, each corner I turned revealed children, nuns, old folks, priests, and even policemen celebrating. They were singing, dancing, parading, and laughing the night away. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. Even though I had no idea where I was going most of the night, I nevertheless felt like I was right where I was supposed to be.
Here's a taste of the excited celebration from one small side street (sorry for the dark; blame the night). This was one of the rare streets that was somewhat navigable:
In just a few hours, I'll make my way back to St. Peter's square again to get as good a position as I can for the beatification. I'll join hundreds of thousands of witnesses, including over 600 priests, as we celebrate the holiness of the great man and worship the God who brought it all about.
Here are some last minute materials to prepare you for the Sunday morning beatification:
- Watch the beatification live through television or online
- A good article from Fr. James Martin, S.J. on why, despite his human flaws, John Paul II deserves beatification.
- Fr. Robert Barron asks two questions: "why are we celebrating the beatification?" and "what makes a Saint a Saint?"
- Catholic reporter John Allen answers the most common beatification questions: