Tuesday, July 12, 2016

An Audience with The Pope, Part 1

Along about December I decided that perhaps an audience with The Pope might be a good idea. That is what this journey has all been about. Florence, Milan, Rome and soon to be Venice, are all just bonus distractions when compared to an audience with The Pope. What do you need to do if you want to attend Papal Mass? Well, sit tight and I'll tell you.

To say an audience with The Pope is a big deal is a bit of an understatement. This first post will be short and more about what needs to happen before you can attend Pontifical Mass. Part two will have more about the Mass itself and what happens on Easter Sunday.

When we parted last I showed you a view of St. Peter's Basilica from Castle Sant Angelo, so that hero/lead image is what I'll call turnabout.
The Vatican
So, what is the most important thing to consider if you want an audience with The Pope? Planning, pure and simple it's not something you can do on a whim. You can celebrate Mass at the Vatican anytime. The delightful Swiss Guards will give you a ticket, all you need to do is ask. Oh, yeah you'll need a ticket if you want to attend Mass at The Vatican.  Papal Mass, you'll need to ask in advance.

Somewhere at The Vatican there is a room with a fax machine that I imagine beeps and squeals incessantly all day and night with an army, most likely three, of priests tending to it. This isn't an "Old Man Zollinger" type fax machine attendance, this is important stuff. If you know me, ask me about "Old Man Zollinger" some time, if you knew him, you're laughing right now. This is the first step on your journey to an audience with The Pope.

Click here and you'll go to a page that has links to the PDF form you will need to complete and fax to The Vatican. I know what you're thinking: "A Fax? What is this 1993? There isn't an easier way?" Look, The Vatican is one of the oldest institutions on the planet it didn't get that way by adopting every new-fangled technofad that comes along and honestly, if you can find a way to send a fax these days you have passed the first test. It took me three days to figure it out, and I used a special internet to fax service and had to pray that it worked. It did.

Swiss Guards at The Vatican

Most other days all you need to do to celebrate Mass at The Vatican is ask the nice Swiss Guards. Don't let the clown suits fool you, these guys look like they are ready to rock and roll at the drop of a beret. They are always in pairs and one talks with people while the other keeps his finger on the halberd. The guy in the photo above on the left was very helpful to me personally. All the Swiss Guards as super polite, mega patient and speak Italian, German and English at least. Most of the Swiss I've met speak German (yes Swiss German is odd) English, French, Italian and that funky Latin language that somehow got lost in the mountains. Look, if you're not willing to pick a side in a war logic states that you wouldn't favor a language.

Swiss Guards at The Vatican

You go right ahead and tell this nice young man that he is wearing funny-looking pants. I dare you. It's cool, I'll wait and take photos.

Okay, so you've faxed your stuff to The Vatican. After that a priest will send you a letter. Yes, it's typed but it is hand signed -- maybe autopened. Mine arrived surprisingly quickly. The letter will tell you if you have been approved to get a ticket to Papal Mass. There is no ticket, you must go see the Swiss Guards for that. There will however, be a number for your ticket. I'm pretty sure that number is all you need, but I carted that letter with me to Rome as if it were a stone delivered to me by Moses himself. Lord, thy burning bush, it scorches thine ears with its facsimiled squeal.

St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican

My fast train from Florence rolled into the station in Rome around 15:30 on Good Friday. From there it was a mad dash for me to make it to The Vatican to collect my special ticket before the place closed. Oh yeah, I needed to drop off my bags first. At the La Salleian school turned hotel across town. If you're going to Easter Mass at The Vatican you might as well book monk's quarters right?

I made it to St. Peter's Square with and hour to spare. I had no intention of that alliteration, but since it's there I won't pull out my hair. Right. So I booked it to the information center and the man there had no clue where I could get my ticket. He told me to ask the Swiss Guards, who I was having trouble finding. So I asked a few police, who don't really speak anything other than Italian. Finally, I made it to the nice guard you see above handing out tickets. He directed me to il Portone di bronzo of the Apostolic Palace. It took a little for searching, but I found it.

I had to go through Vatican Security to get to il Portone di bronzo and thankfully it was pretty empty since the place was closing soon. There is a magical thing that happens after you pass security: more guards protect the path to the Bronze Door I needed to get to. They moved to block me as I walked up. I looked at them, showed them my tattered envelope from the Holy See and said, "el Porto del Bronzo" in Italian butchered like a field-dressed swine and the guards parted like I was His Holiness himself -- not really. There were no more questions, no nothing. I went from threat to pilgrim in an instant.

I walked up to the the Swiss Guards at the Portone di bronzo and one came to me while the other clenched his Halberd a bit tighter. I explained that I was here to pick up my ticket for an Audience with the Pope. Actually, I rolled up and said "vie gehets" because I'm a dipshit like that and the guard was actually a little taken aback but he took it like a pro and responded with "gut." He then took my letter and disappeared. I was a bit nervous. I had been waiting for this rushed moment for about four months, what happens if they change their minds? They didn't, he returned with my ticket for Mass on  Sunday, March 27 with "Father Francis" and I exhaled a sigh of relief. Now all that was left for me to do was eat amazing food and ramble around Rome for a day.

Inside St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican

So ramble I did. I went straight back the The Vatican in the morning to see St. Peter's Basilica. I passed through La Porta Sancta and marveled in God's glory from the floor of what was once the largest church in the world. There are no words, no photos, no expressions to describe this. The only thing I can tell you is that you should see it before 13:00. For some reason around 13:00 the place gets packed with tourists to the point where you can barely move. This is like many of the attractions in Rome.

I hit up the gift shop and bought a few items to have blessed by His Holiness after Sunday Mass during Urbi et Orbi. I'm selfish so I bought a few things for myself and then bought a medallion to send to my best friend's daughter as a gift for her baptism. That kind of thing is a big deal, it's a shame most never remember it. After all that it was off to get kind of away from the masses of tourists and wander around for a while. I had hoped to ascend the dome of the Basilica but it was closed until Monday for religious reasons. Next time: Sunday and I'll only wait a week to put it up.

Wow, you've made it all the way to the bottom and for that I thank you. If you're so inclined you can consider supporting me here https://www.patreon.com/kocovnik Feel free to share that link with your friends too.

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