Travel Journal — Mother’s Day at St. Peter’s
It was a Mother’s Day to remember for my lovely bride Patti Armstrong as we attended the Latin Mass at St. Peter’s and then, like tens of thousands of mothers on the Square, received a blessing and prayer from Pope Francis. It was a perfect beginning to our day as we later met up with Bismarck seminarian Jordan Dosch, one of the twenty-four students studying to be a priest from one of the smallest dioceses in the USA—Bismarck, North Dakota. Jordan quipped, “Yes, it is an exciting time to be at the North American Pontifical College, just last week Pope Francis paid a visit here…his first visit to a seminary since becoming the pope two years ago.”
Jordan was our tour guide today. We wandered through the narrow cobblestone streets packed with people on this warm sunny Sunday. We stopped to go inside six different Catholic Churches and saw the relics of some of the Apostles and countless other saints, including the foot of St. Mary Magdalene, the one she used to first step into the tomb of Jesus Christ. We capped off the evening at a restaurant near the church that contained some of bones of two of the Apostles, St. Philip and St. James the Lesser. We are told the restaurant, Abruzzi, is the favorite of both Timothy Cardinal Dolan and George Weigel when they are in Roma.
Then we wandered back through the still-packed streets to line up for gelato (the Italian ice cream) and walked through St. Peter’s Square for one last time to buy some souvenirs from the ever-present street vendors and take some final evening snapshots.
Pope Francis in his message today said, “Today in many countries we celebrate Mother’s Day.” From the window of the Papal apartments that looks down on St. Peter’s Square he prayed his weekly Regina Cæli, as he does at noon every Sunday during the Easter season when he is at the Vatican.
The crowd wildly cheered a second time, moments later. I wasn’t entirely clear why at the time, but of course we joined in the applause. I learned later from the Vatican Radio report that Pope Francis departed from his prepared text (as he often does) and asked for a round of applause for all the mothers present in the Square. A video is posted on my Facebook page. He then said, “That applause embraces all mothers, all our dear mothers; those who are with us physically, but also those who live with us spiritually. May the Lord bless them all, and may the Mother of God, to who this month is dedicated, watch over them all.”
I feel like Mother Mary is watching us on this family pilgrimage to Italy. Everything from the weather, to our sightseeing to our time together as a family is going to near perfection. Tomorrow we join up with our son Tyler who is flying in from Colorado. We will head north to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, then to Turin to see the Shroud and finally onto Milan. More about those stops coming up in the days ahead.