My Brazilian friend, Andressa, and I left our accommodation just before midnight. We arrived on the scene to find that there were already tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people already there! The whole atmosphere felt like a World Youth Day event, with people from every nation mingling together. People were waving flags, singing, dancing, sleeping and playing games, as we all waited for the Vatican gates to open.
Over the next few hours, we slowly made our way down the main street to the Vatican; but it was really slow progress! And, due to the insane number of pilgrims in attendance, if you were brave enough to try and sit down you may have ended up becoming someone else’s chair.
However, it wasn’t all pain and suffering, as we chatted with various neighbours along the way. Andressa was interviewing various people for a report back home, and so we got to know some of the Brazilians and Polish people around us. They were all very nice and made the whole not-sitting-down experience more enjoyable, as we toiled together.
With the hours ticking by, people began to really feel the strain. But we all remained resolute to stay the course, as this was a historic event and we were a part of it.
Eventually, with the sun now risen, we could see the preparations taking place around the altar, with dignitaries and others taking their places. And then, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI appeared! There was a huge round of applause and cheering for him. I could tell that a lot of people missed him and that in retirement, fondness for him and his humble service to others grew only stronger.
By the time the Canonisation Mass had begun, I must confess that I, and a lot of others, were very tired. Some people were even dozing off to get some sleep. It had been an extremely difficult ten hours for many people.
However, considering the occasion – the canonisation of two great Saints – most people will tell you that it was definitely worth the pain. And besides, it was a small sacrifice to make, considering the one Christ made on our behalf.
Reflecting on the trip as a whole, it was lovely to see friends again from other countries, to go camping with them, share breakfast together and laugh and joke in the bathroom. And as for the canonisation, the event showed how powerful a figure these Saints remain – and will always remain – in the lives of the biggest, most diverse, most joyful family in the world – the Catholic Church.