This past weekend I stayed in Rome to celebrate Easter, and to be honest, Easter weekend in Rome is a pretty big deal. Not being an overly religious person myself, celebrating Easter in a Catholic country was a completely new experience for me. No longer was my Easter filled with colored eggs, ham dinners, chocolates and bunny rabbits, but it was filled with services staring the one and only, Pope Francis. Because I am not Catholic, and I only speak very basic Italian, I was worried that I would not be able to understand a lot of what was going on throughout Rome this weekend, but luckily a very good friend of mine named Jackie came to Rome to visit me for the weekend, and she just so happened to be Catholic and could explain to me the basic gist of the two ceremonies that we were going to be watching.
I did not have the chance to go to each and every service that was offered throughout the weekend, but the first one that Jackie and I went to was the Stations of the Cross. For those (like me) who do not know what that ceremony is for, it is when the Pope leads a procession that commemorates the fourteen stages of Christ’s Passion. While I did not understand the vast majority of the ceremony, the scenery itself was very moving. It took place right beside the coliseum at night with a huge cross made of candles as the backdrop of the speakers. It was a breathtaking site to see, and when the Pope first spoke, you could sense the feeling of awe throughout the entire audience. My favorite part was seeing a small Italian girl, maybe four years old, get so incredibly excited to see Pope Francis that she squealed at the site of his white robe.
The other ceremony that we were able to see was Easter Mass. At the very beginning of my semester in Rome, I filled out paperwork and faxed it to the Vatican in order to gain tickets to see the Mass in St. Peter’s Square. It was very quick and did not take much time at all. The paperwork simply asked for my name, how many tickets I needed and my contact information. I heard that I was accepted for tickets by February, so I was really looking forward in being able to participate in such a rich cultural experience. Little did I know, there was very limited seating for those who had tickets, so unless I arrived well before 7:30 in the morning, I would not get a seat, and would just stand with the rest of the general Mass-goers. So for future Mass-goers, you can still see the Mass without tickets, and will most likely end up in the general section anyway, so do not worry if you do not have time to request tickets!
I did not manage to get myself a seat, but I was still able to go to Easter Mass at the Vatican. How cool is that?! I still cannot believe that it happened. Anyway, the Mass started at 10:15 in the morning, and Jackie, a bunch of other Temple Rome students and I, arrived at St. Peters Square around 7:30 in the morning to try to find a good location to watch the service within the crowd of people. The entire morning it was raining, and I do not mean drizzles, but full out rain. Everybody in the audience was absolutely soaked, and it was difficult to see anything with all of the umbrellas. Although I could barely see what was going on in front of me, I was able to understand what was being said because there were translations into multiple languages from Italian, to English and even Portuguese. At the end of the ceremony, the Pope delivered a blessing called the Urbi et Orbi, or in English, to the City and to the World.
It was not necessarily the Easter that I expected, especially with all of the rain, but it was amazing. I was able to experience another part of not only Italian culture, but world culture that I have never really seen before. In the crowds of people there was this sense of oneness and peace. It did not matter what language people were speaking or what country they were from because everybody was there for the same purpose, to come together and celebrate Easter.