Friday, June 29, 2012

The Blessing of a Lifetime

"He looked me directly in the eye and gave me a blessing."

Our daughter's day started in a breathtaking way as she snapped the photo above. She was inside St. Peter's Basilica for a Mass celebrated by The Holy Father. And Holy Cow! What a view she had!

To be there for the mass is one thing, to be inside is another. To be that close is almost unthinkable. She said "there were tons of people outside, lots of them monks and nuns. I felt guilty for being inside while they weren't."

I think it was just a little sting of guilt, because she is quite aware of the extraordinary nature of this experience. Besides, many of the nuns had their own close encounters.

This Holy Mass for the solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul was a history-making affair. The Sistine Choir and the Westminster Abbey Choir sang together for the occasion. It's the first time in more than 500 years that the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches had formally worshiped together in any way. By all accounts, it was breathtaking.

And there was my daughter, seated with one of her traveling companions in the transept with an unobstructed view of the Pope himself. The setting was undeniably spectacular.

This was a completely unexpected once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. She and the other TCU students have had a tour guide during their stay in Rome. Less than 24 hours before the Papal Mass, the tour guide said she had two tickets available to it for anyone who wanted them. Our daughter alertly jumped at the chance, but never dreamed it would turn out like this.

Usually eloquent, she was driven to exclamatory language to describe what she was feeling. Here are some choice quotes:

"Holy crap. That was the coolest thing ever."

"Oh yeah. We were freaking out."

And my favorite: "I think you're going to jump off a bridge when you see my pictures."

Let's say I've been excited all day. I've been distracted. I've had chills. I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around her good fortune. Naturally, I've e-mailed a couple of key photos to Catholic friends and relatives; and the replies have featured all kinds of capital letters and exclamation points.

This is something I'll never forget and I wasn't even there. This is likely an experience so profound that she and her friend will not be able to adequately explain it to others. I'm so happy for them.

She says she has been "ridiculously, unreasonably lucky" on this trip, and this is concrete evidence of that.

There's also the remarkably contrasting experiences she had in about an 18-hour period. The evening before, the soccer team from Italy improbably won its way into the Euro Cup final...igniting wild celebrations across the country. Guess who was right in the middle of it....

She said it actually got too crazy and they retreated to the safety of their hotel. Good judgment there.

One of the people who received the photos I sent said "She's living such a blessed life." I think she would agree, especially after the guy in the pointy hat made eye contact with her and made the sign of the cross. After all, as another friend put it so eloquently: "I mean, it's the freaking Pope!!"

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