A View From Saint Peter’s Square

The Mendota Beacon

VATICAN CITY — I got home from spring break in the Amalfi coast today around 4:30 and ran down to St. Peter's square as soon as I could. I walked around for an hour or so, took in the scene of so many people gathered, praying, hearing songs and prayers of different languages every few steps or so. I had my camera, of course, and took a few pictures to remember the event, but i don't think i'll be needing the pictures to remember tonight.

After an hour or so, I called my roommate Cecile and asked her to bring a rosary so i could pray while i waited for news. I found a group of seminarians singing "Laudate dominum" and joined in for a while, then sat down with my candle and waited for Cecile. She arrived shortly afterwards, and we continued to wait for news. After two hours and no update, we walked around the square to take in the scene a little more, and then saw the massive line of news cameras.

Walking by, many of them turned to film the candle in my hand, as it provided a good visual for thier newscasts, and after a while we got stopped for interviews. As more people caught on to the fact that we spoke english, we did more and more interviews, until around 9 when cecile left for dinner. At that point there was still no update, but the cardinals had gathered outside the basilica to lead the crowd in prayer. I went back into the square and finished praying a rosary with the 10,000 other people in the piazza. At the end of the rosary, I heard the cardinal leading the prayer say something about 21:37 and going to the house, and then there was a respectful applause among the crowd. I finally worked up the courage to ask the woman next to me, "Che cosa ha detto?" "E morto," she said. "alle nove e trenta sette."

He died, at 9:37. I, along with half of the crowd, got down on my knees and prayed another decade of the rosary for him. The candle still burned in front of me, like lingering hope.

I left the praying mass in the piazza to call my family and find out if they'd heard or not, and sure enough, they'd found out an hour before I had. I was accosted by reporters again, this time looking for thoughts "after the death," and did a few more interviews, and then went back in the piazza to pray another rosary. This time, the bells of St. Peter’s rang throughout the entire prayer, mourning the passing of a great man, a great leader, a great example of Christ's love in this world. After another hour of prayer or so, I made my way through the ever increasing mass of people and left the square, six hours after I'd entered it earlier that evening.

I stopped to get some gelato on my way home, and pondered the question that had been asked of me so many times that evening with cameras shoved in my face:"Are you sad?" For JP2? No. I'm more glad for him than anything right now. He's spent his entire life working towards this night. This is his moment of glory. After 26 years of service (and then some, before he was pope) to the people of this world, he has finally received his reward. Right now, he is in the one place everyone in this world truly desires to be: paradise with our Father, our Creator, our Savior.

The last hours of his life were spent drowning himself in scripture, with thousands just outside his window praying unceasingly for him. What a way to go. So no, I'm not sad for him. I'm estatic for him. I'm sad for the church, I'm sad for the world, and I'm concerned for the future and what it brings. But my prayer tonight is one of thankfulness for a life well lived by an example for all, and desire for God's will to be fulfilled in the coming days. So after a long day, and a longer evening, filled with expectation, prayer, inquiry, and once in a lifetime events,

I'm off to my resting place, knowing fully that JP2 is secure in his. And I'm certain that I won't need the pictures to remember the evening of April 2, 2005.