5.40 am came early to us today, yet our boys managed to pop out of bed and get into their uniforms and up into the cafeteria within 20 short minutes. We are blessed to once again wake up to a beautiful cloudless warm day!
Breakfast this morning consisted of freshly baked bread (still warm inside), boiled eggs and cereal. The Dad’s arrived extra early to help Father Thomas make the lunches that we would take with us (ham and cheese, an apple, a cinnamon bun, and a bag of chips). By 6.45 am we were on the move to walk single file to the nearby train station for the short ride to Vatican stop some six minutes away.
The train service improved since our last visit in 2011 with a modern new train and on-time train service. We boarded quickly to ensure that our group would all get onboard. We effectively exited the train and commenced our walk to St. Peter’s at the Vatican.
There was much excitement as we turned one corner and suddenly St. Peter’s arose above the skyline as we snapped photos of our first view. The crowds waiting to enter St. Peter’s square were huge, but getting through security was less difficult than what we experienced in Assisi.
The brothers (seminarians) helping Father Thomas that day quickly moved ahead to obtain a prime spot right where the Pope would be coming by in his Popemobile and where we could wait in the shade. We played little games, Father Thomas talked to the boys about who was who in the statues towering over the square and then suddenly as 9.30 am rolled around a great cheer went up as the Pope suddenly appeared in his vehicle entering the square. The timber wolves and explorers got excited and surged to the gate railings to get a better glimpse of the Pope with cameras in hand.
They would not be surprised as the Pope would pass within 6 feet of us and look us right in the eye, smile, and wave! The boys called out to His Holiness as he passed by with our Canadian and FSE flag on display!
We the listened to the Pope’s homily about the importance of Love, to listen to Jesus, to call on him to help, to love like him and not to put our hope in earthly material things or personal status as non of these will satisfy the human heart. This is what the Pope said in his homily (translated for us by Father Thomas from Italian to English:
It is exactly on the cross that our new life is born. It is a very different hope that is on the cross. Very different from the other hopes that crumble. What is our hope on the cross? It is like the seed that falls to the ground and dies. Only in breaking and dying will there be new life from that seed. Jesus did that. Like the seed, he made himself small. He allowed himself to fall into the earth. Not only that, he allowed himself to be broken... how is hope born? It is born of the cross... look at Jesus on the cross. There is our hope, a hope for eternal life... Jesus transformed, taking for Himself our sins... How does Easter transform us... Our fears he turns into trust, our darkness into light. That's why with Jesus everything can be turned to light... our losses into victories... hope can transform everything. Because God died so we could have life. When we turn to Jesus, we change. We gain a victorious life. This is how we can transform our lives and our world. It seems like I lose my power if I love people like I lose something. But in reality, I gain so much more. When I want something else and I get that something else, I will keep wanting more and more. It will never satisfy us. The more we get the more we want. And we lose it all anyway in the end. Love others, serve others. Live the way God wants us to... be the hope of the world. Serve others. Love others. Sometimes we get tired. But follow hope when we serve. Follow hope when we give.
The gold is not the goal. Jesus gave his life and his body for us in the Eucharist... and this is precisely what Jesus has in store for us. A life that gives joy... love that gives life... love is the motive that makes our hope move forward. These are days for love. As the grain of wheat falls on the ground, we have to contemplate the Christ.. we have to discover Jesus on the cross, his life, and his death. I'm going to give you something for you to use in Your home. Stop in front of the cross.. look at Jesus on the cross... Tell him, "Jesus, in you I always have hope." Say it together: you are my hope. Say it: you are my hope.
The Pope greeted the many groups present including English speaking members from Canada, we let out a great cheer at that moment.
As the Holy Father’s General Audience came to an end we settled down to enjoy our lunch before heading off to the “Church of the Holy Spirit”. This church is dedicated to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. A beautiful church indeed. We obtained permission to sing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Father Thomas started to lead us in song with a soft voice, but as soon as he did the boys responding with strong clear voices. Other worshipers and tourists present certainly did not fail to note the beautiful prayer song with such belief and love by the timber wolves and explorers.
On the way back we made a brief side stop, to enjoy the world famous gelato happily consumed by all present. The vendor was so happy to see so many customers all at once. Not a single trace of this ice cream was left before we continued our trek back to St. Peter’s.
The lineup to get into St. Peter’s was quite long but we made it through within a reasonable time. When the Explorers and Timber Wolves first entered the largest church in the world finished in about 1612 after 120 years of construction they let out an audible “wow” as to the beauty that awaiting them.
We explored all that was open to the public within the next three plus hours in small groups with Brothers from the seminary present to assist us. We prayed, took many photos’s, learned a lot about the history of the church and studied the meaning of the different sculptures strategically positioned throughout the church. From one of the boys, this visit is so awesome!
As we closed out our visit we made the long and very challenging trek up to the Cupola some 320 steps up that passed through steep and evert narrow passage ways. It is a good workout and not for the faint hearted (those with weak legs or heart condition). Just so you know Grey Wolf (Akela) made it up the stairs without any undue physical stress, yet a great workout. The view from the top is absolutely stunning, especially on a cloudless day!
After descending we made our way to the train station for our trip back to the seminary for some sports, prayers, Holy Mass, supper (Sausages, salad, rice and a cake for dessert), showers and off to bed just before 10.00 pm with all asleep in less than 15 minutes. Tomorrow Mass of the Last Supper and our trip to the Vatican museum, the best museum in the world!
Each one of our timber wolves and explorers is very happy, peaceful, content, joyful, and keeping up, even the littlest ones. Our Pilgrimage and joint camp with our Italian Explorers continue to exceed the wildest expectations! Thanks, be to God! I love you Jesus!
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