As the spring 2022 Rome semester draws to a close, the students, myself included, are currently on their final long weekend trip. The week prior was Holy Week, and students had the opportunity to travel wherever they chose for the Triduum.
While some chose to leave Italy and go to places like Ireland and Spain for the weekend, many chose to remain in Rome and attend Mass in one of the city’s many beautiful churches. The most famous being St. Peter’s Basilica, where a group of students were able to attend an Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square celebrated by Pope Francis himself.
How were we able to do this? The process itself was at first complicated. In order to be able to attend, you have to reserve a ticket for one of the Masses through the Vatican.
Due to the sheer number of people who request tickets every year, the results for UD students were very mixed. I was lucky enough to reserve a ticket, as were many other students, but many never received a response. The ones who did get tickets also didn’t hear back for almost a month before getting a confirmation that we received tickets.
A few days leading up to Easter, we traveled into Rome to pick up our tickets at a Vatican office. Then on Friday, we left Due Santi and went to an Airbnb in Rome to stay for the weekend.
I can say that all of the services we attended were beyond beautiful. Each one presented something different, yet each also helped to emphasize the significance and holiness behind each day of the Triduum.
We first attended a Good Friday liturgy at Venerable English College at 3 p.m. What made this particularly special was that the liturgy was in English, which gave us some familiarity as we contemplated the Passion of our Lord. Other college students were present, and even though we didn’t know each other by name, we still felt a strong bond that words cannot explain.
Later that evening, we participated in Stations of the Cross that took place at the Colosseum and was presided over by Pope Francis. Despite the meditations on the Stations being in Italian, the atmosphere of everyone around us spoke much more than words ever could. We were all from different countries and spoke different languages, but we all knew why we were there and were able to share that holy moment with one another.
This similar environment reached its climax on Easter Sunday. You often hear about events being “life changing” or something that you will never forget. I am often skeptical of such claims, but for this day, I have to make an exception.
This Mass emphasized what it means to be truly Catholic; dedicating our hearts to the Lord with those from around the world in a truly universal, or Catholic, church. After the Gospel had been read in Latin, it was chanted a second time by a priest from one of the Eastern Catholic Churches in ancient Greek. The prayers of the faithful were read in different languages and priests from different countries helped with Communion. Finally, after the Mass had concluded, the Pope gave his Easter address where he granted a plenary indulgence for those who attended or who had listened to the Mass over TV or radio.
This service was special for me for two reasons; firstly, being from a mixed faith household, I had never attended a Catholic Easter mass. Being able to do so for the first time at St. Peter’s, especially one being celebrated by the Pope, is, as cliche as it may sound, a once in a lifetime experience.
More importantly, it was that this service exemplified the life and virtues of the Catholic faith. It conveyed the Great Commission, the universal commitment Christians to spread the Gospel to all peoples, and those who had received it gathered at this basilica to celebrate the holiest day of the year, the reason that we have hope in eternal life and salvation.
I knew leaving the row of chairs I was sitting in that I would never be the same after that. I walked away with a greater appreciation for the gift of Faith and for those around the world with whom I share it.