Elizabeth Annechino, OFS
As I reflect on the Canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII what immediately comes to mind are the words: miraculous and sublime. When you are open to God’s invitation miracles take place. Our minds were on God alone and our hearts were eager and open to receive all that God had invited us to that day.
You see when Gwen and I started planning our Franciscan Pilgrimage it was to be our “Assisi Pilgrimage” with the privilege of also spending a couple of days in “Rome sweet Home.” We were well into planning before they announced the canonizations of these two great Popes.
Anyone who knows me well knows I hate crowds and don’t enjoy big celebrations. I experience God most profoundly off by myself and in silence. That was my heart’s desire and as for Gwen she was marveling at how God had provided the time and means to go. After this occurred, an awareness emerged that we were no longer in charge and that Someone far greater than us was inviting us on this pilgrimage. We were humbled and felt honored to accept this invitation.
We got up very early that morning to arrive at St. Peter’s Square by 7am. With no breakfast, we just swiftly went to get to our destination nice and early. Mass would begin at 10:00 and we were going to be there to receive all that the Lord had invited us to, no matter what.
Our excitement soon turned into frustration and terror as we stood for hours while the crowds emerged. They say there were close to a million people. People were pushing and shoving and not acting very Christian at all. There was garbage all over the place from people who had camped out the night before. Gwen and I were hanging on for dear life and I was getting very upset that people were forgetting they were on holy ground!
The first miracle happened when the holy Mass began and Pope Francis and Benedict embraced and the people responded to Mass parts in Latin. God transcended our humanity and we were on holy ground. My heart melted and my anger turned to an overwhelming sense of God’s Mercy on His people…one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Gwen who had been standing on her once injured leg, that made normal walking difficult at times, was somewhere other than earth in adoration.
We were both humbled and honored to be at this historic moment in history. Four Popes at one Mass! We were immersed in our heavenly Father’s love and mercy for His poor, broken and sinful people on this Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014. I’m sure only a tiny speck in His Ocean of Divine Mercy! So after the three and a half hour Mass we headed back to our hotel. There were no buses or taxis due to the masses of people in Rome. So we walked and we walked and we laughed and we cried for literally hours until we arrived at our hotel close to seven pm. It was only the next day that we learned we had walked ten miles. I certainly do believe in miracles.
Pax et bonum