Ad limina pilgrims get front row seats at general audience
VATICAN CITY — There are days when everything seems to be going your way and today was one of those days for the more than 40 pilgrims from the Diocese of Charlotte and the Archdiocese of Atlanta who got up early to head to St. Peter's Basilica for the pope's General Audience in St. Peter's Square.
Some pilgrims opted to go extra early to wait in line and run up to the seating area where we had reserved tickets. Others rode the bus and arrived at about 8:15 am, as the gates were set to open at 8:30.
"I'm so excited!" was a common phrase among the pilgrims. "We have to run for it when the gates open," was another.
Everyone was super-charged with energy. The thrill of the moment was evident on the faces of all the men and women of varying ages and walks of life who had been anticipating this day for a very long time.
We were all poised to charge into the square the moment the guards let us in, as we heard we may have to muscle our way past some other overzealous ticketholders, so when the gates opened we literally sprinted into St. Peter's Square, making a beeline for our reserved area on the right side of the raised area where the Holy Father sits.
That makes two times in one week I have sprinted in St. Peter's Square to get close to our Papa!
Father Christopher Roux and several parishioners from both dioceses got to the section first and saved the first couple of rows. Those of us who were in the second wave to arrive at the section were so grateful for their efforts and thanked them for running up the hill and all the steps to get us such a perfect location for the General Audience.
We were giddy at the prospect of being so close to the Holy Father. We had another two hours to go before the audience, but we wiled away the time by praying, reading and just people watching, as the square slowly filled with people.
It was about 10:45 when we got our first glimpse of the Holy Father in the open popemobile. He came out into the crowds with his arms outstretched, blessing the people. Waves of cheers were heard as he made his way towards us, and at the top of the ramp he was driven behind the area where he would give his address and he disembarked.
He is just as handsome, kindly and jovial as you would expect a proud Papa to be.
Throughout the readings of Scripture and then his addresses to the people from around the world in various languages, you got this sense of peace and of family.
We were all there to hear what he wanted to share with us. What words of wisdom he had.
The one word that stuck for me was prayer. A call to prayer to grow in holiness and grow closer to Christ.
I was in such a state of euphoria that I can't remember anything else.
As I looked around at my fellow pilgrims I could see radiant smiles, and later, when the Holy Father drove right past us at arm's length, there were tears.
I decided to put my camera down and look my Papa in the eye, show him a copy of the Catholic News Herald and praise and thank God for the opportunity to come face to face with the Vicar of Christ.
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer. (Photos by SueAnn Howell)
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