how we stood up the Pope

February 2003 was not my favorite month. It began with chicken pox making its way through 3 kids, then The Norwalk virus, a 24 hour flu that I blame for my first miscarriage.  It’s true that the year 2003 was off to a rough start, but my husband Bill,  took it upon himself to make a dream happen.

We continued to visit Grandma Elizabeth, whenever we were healthy, and we were still coasting from the thrill of Pope John Paul 2 receiving A Treasure Chest of Traditions and giving us personal feedback including the mission to continue our apostolate Arma Dei.
It had been a thrill to see the Holy Father at World Youth Day in 2002, but with Elizabeth’s continuous dialogue with Karol, we felt that perhaps we could see him once again.
Elizabeth encouraged us to plan a trip to Rome. We went through all the channels we could find and received tickets to attend the Wednesday General Audience at St Peter’s Square. Elizabeth’s frequent updates led us to ponder extraordinary possibilities. Elizabeth was fully confident that we would not only see the Pope, but eat “Polish scones, made by the nuns” with him and walk with him in his garden. Well, it didn’t exactly happen…and hopefully some day in heaven we’ll find out for sure if it was even remotely possible or if the timely SARS epidemic, centered in Toronto* interfered with any chance we had of meeting the pope.

*notice date of article April 22, 2003…all about SARS coming from Toronto (where we’re from). 
Our audience with the Pope was April 30, 2003!

In any case, we had a great trip! We traveled with 26 month old Joseph. We stayed at a Hungarian convent on the outskirts of Rome, recommended to us by our pastor. We picked up our tickets at the bronze doors and had an awesome, personally embellished whirlwind tour of Rome guided by our friend Fr Damien. 

The next day, we took the bus into town, with our little jet-lagged toddler. Joseph threw up all over Bill as soon as we got off the bus. (Joseph had been too tired to eat much that morning, so fortunately it was a relatively clean disaster.) The hot Italian sun seemed to dry-clean Bill’s shirt as we waited patiently in our seats to the right of the Pope’s chair!
We sat patiently, with Joseph asleep in our arms, mesmerized by the crowd, the proximity of St Peter’s and the anticipation of seeing the Holy Father.
Joseph gradually woke up to the sound of the crowd chanting “Viva il papa!” and “John Paul II, We Love You!” as the Pope Mobile rolled in.
When he grew tired of listening to the Holy Father talk (Joseph’s Italian still isn’t great!), Joseph made friends with the others sitting around us. 

It looks like he’s selling hats!

We were just a few rows back, but still barricaded from meeting the Holy Father. We listened to his voice and watched eagerly as he greeted all the first row people. To our surprise, many people left…but we stayed… glued in place, watching the Holy Father.
To our delight, his holiness was escorted by Pope Mobile along our side of the platform.
As the Pope Mobile turned and faced us, I felt the Holy Father look right at me.  (I know…me and a lot of people…but I felt the connection! =)
For some reason, I was holding BOTH the video camera and my still camera, but I was too flustered to get any good video or pictures because I couldn’t take my eyes off the Pope! As he began to pass us, this is the best picture I captured!
We lingered a few moments outside St Peter’s and spoke with our new best friend Angela, a college student from Illinois, who Joseph insisted on calling “Angel”.  She gave us a cool tour of St Peter’s, we ate lunch together and we promised to keep in touch. We continue to pray for her efforts with FOCUS…and we are delighted that she is Adam’s Godmother!
We delivered a package from Elizabeth to the Swiss Guards, as promised, but alas…tea and Polish nun-made scones with the Pope just didn’t happen.  

The funniest thing happened when we returned home and visited with our friend Elizabeth.  As soon as she saw us, she said in her (kind of loud) voice: “Where WERE you?!  Karol said you didn’t come.  He had the scones ready and everything!”
Yes, despite our letters from priests, tickets for the general audience, package (and orders!) from Elizabeth, along with our verbal attempts at the Bronze doors and with the Swiss Guards
…according to Elizabeth: 
we stood up the Pope!


  1. great pictures, great writing style, great tone and message

  2. Another great story, Monica! Such special memories. I dream of going to Rome some day.

  3. Those pictures are great! What a lovely story, but it must me Lent becasue the main thing I’m taking away from it right now is ummmm, scones.

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