Tears of Sorrow, Tears of Joy
Like any other college student, especially from The University of Dayton, I hold my Thursday’s very dear to my heart as a night to drink, relax, and socialize with friends while forgetting all about class. However, the Lord had another plan.
Around one o’clock in a local bar in Campo di Fiori, while studying abroad for the semester in Italy, I heard that the Pope had received his last rights. Being a devout Catholic, I immediately finished my drink and took off for Vatican City.
Walking through the city streets early in the morning, I found a million thoughts racing through my head. Was the Pope going to die while I lived in Rome? Was this the end of a great legacy?
Upon my arrival I found that the police had blocked off the main street to St. Peter’s and my heart immediately sank. I rushed to the Square which was closed off but stayed with the crowd of 100 that had gathered for prayer and song. As I looked up after my prayers I saw a black cat walking across the closed Square.
I awoke the next morning thinking that the Pope had passed away over night but there was no news that I could understand, that the Pope had died. Immediately after my shower I had resolved to go to St. Peters to pray with the masses who gathered in prayer for John Paul II.
In the Piazza, I began to lean against one of the pillars and look up at the Pope and pray for his life. Approximately 10 minutes after my arrival, three French nuns and a priest began to pray the rosary behind me. This became the opportune picture for all journalists who wanted to capture the levity of the situation, a young student sadly praying and looking up at the Papal apartments while the clergy are in prayer behind him.
I had become an attraction which distracted me from my prayers. Soon my picture was being taken not only by journalists but also tourists. I grew frustrated and made my way home for the day.
Saturday held no exciting adventures, at least in the day. I made my way to the Piazza and prayed in the afternoon. I was routinely checking the television while doing my homework. I finally saw a sentence in Italian that I will never forget: Il papa è morto alle 21.37. I couldn’t believe that the Pope had died an hour before I checked in but it was no use rushing to St. Peters in the middle of the night. I would wake early the next morning and go to mass to celebrate the Pope entering heaven with everyone else.
Sunday I awoke and made my way to the Piazza an hour before mass around 9:30. Upon my arrival, I found that my eagerness was rewarded with a fiftieth row, standing spot in front of the altar. I looked to my right and saw that an American flag was hoisted in the air which reminded me that I was at home.
After mass, after praying with thousands of people who spoke different languages, I exited the mass which looked more like a giant festival with flags waving and cheers to celebrate the life of Giovanni Paolo. I heard two priests in conversation behind me talking about the many responses to the Pope’s death. The priest turned to his fellow clergyman and said “It’s tears of sorrow and tears of joy. It’s sad that he has passed but we are joyous that he is with the Lord.”
Tears of sorrow, tears of joy. Ciao Papa.