Experiencing Easter At The Vatican

Experiencing Easter At The Vatican

How to spend Easter with the Pope and 150,000 other people
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Since the beginning of the semester, I had known that I would be spending the first half of my spring break alone. Most of my friends and roommates were planning on traveling as soon as classes ended on Thursday, while I would be staying in Rome. Not because I didn't want to travel with them, but because I knew Rome had something far more exciting to offer than the beaches and sights my vacation would bring me to later in the week: Easter in the Vatican City. It's not exactly likely that I will be back in Rome any time soon, especially not in the spring, so getting to see the Pope in St. Peter's Square during Holy Week could very well be a once in a lifetime experience. If you are planning on going the Vatican for Easter, take this article as an example of what you might find there. If you don't know that you'll make it to Rome for the spring, feel free to live vicariously through me.

To get into the center of St. Peter's Square on Easter, you need to have a ticket, which I did not have. This was both because I had heard the process of getting one was tedious and needed to be started at least two months in advance, and because I hadn't known you needed tickets until those two months were almost up. Lucky for me, you don't actually need a ticket to get into the square, only to get past the final line of security closest to the basilica. Tickets are free, though, so if you want to get closer to the altar, don't hesitate if you have the time and patience to try to get one.

Since I didn't know exactly what ticketing or crowds would be like without a ticket, I got to St. Peter's about an hour before mass started. The entire street leading to the basilica was cleared of street traffic and filled with security checkpoints. The crowd in the square was standing, separated by barricades. The square wasn't all that crowded yet, so I ended up just one row of people away from the barricade separating ticket holders and non-ticket holders. Over the course of the next hour, though, the space behind me filled with people. I watched the crowds grow as cameras hovered over the crowd on cranes, projecting our images onto the screens that circled St. Peter's Square. Flags waved through the crowd, marking the countries they had come from throughout the world. The man in front of me asked the women next to them where they were from in easy English. "Argentina," they said. He smiled. "Phillipines."

So much about the mass was so foreign to me, yet felt completely familiar. The hour-long ceremony was accompanied by not only by an organ and choir, but by an entire orchestra. I read along in the book as the mass was carried out in an array of different languages I could only understand through previous knowledge of what the readings at Easter mass usually are. The readings changed from Latin to Greek to Arabic to Chinese with every pause in the mass. When it came time to say peace to my neighbors, I was met with a response in at least seven different languages. The structure of the ceremony was exactly the same as any other I had been to, except now I really didn't know what to say when the Pope said, "Dominus vobiscum."

Everything seemed to be going pretty orderly until it came time for communion. There was no real way to create a line in the packed crowd, so priests just stood several steps apart in front of the barricade and waited for people to make it to them through the throng. It wasn't very long before people started shoving their way to the front, throwing their hands up to let the priests know they hadn't received communion yet as they rushed forward. Eventually, though, they started to figure it out. Those who had already made their way to the priest parted until a clear line of concrete ran in front of him, creating space enough for a proper line to form. I was lucky enough to already be at the front of the crowd when the priest first came around, but it did take a good amount of time for him to get everyone. It also gave all those people at the back of the crowd a chance to be in front, so I lost my spot close to the barricade. I was in the third row of people afterward, though, so still not too bad.

The priest left, mass concluded, and a suited man shut the open ticket barricade closed in front of us, creating an alley between us and the ticket holders. The people around me started talking rapidly and excitedly in a hundred different languages. The Pope step down from the altar until he was hidden by the crowd, but on screen I watched him step into the car beside the steps. It was brilliantly white in the sun.

Shouts and cries were the only way of telling where he was in the crowd. I opened the camera on my phone and held it above my head. We waited as the volume began to crescendo to our left. The women beside me cried out, "Papa! Papa!" as he appeared atop the car, waving to the crowd. Layers of guards walked ahead of him and led him past. The people around me still chattered and bounced with excitement as they waited for him to reappear.

"Mira, mira!" said the woman beside me. She pointed at the papal window. The pope stood above the crowd beside two men clothed in white. He leaned toward the microphone in front of him. "Sorelle e fratelli, Buona Pasqua," he said. The crowd cried out, "Buona Pasqua," with utter joy in their voices. I spent the next ten minutes trying to decipher his Italian using a mixture of the elementary Italian I've been learning and Spanish. I caught bits and pieces of it before he disappeared behind the red curtain hanging behind him. The barricades were open and the basilica's bells began to ring. The drums and horns joined it softly. I followed the crowd out onto the empty Via della Conciliazione, forming an entire street of people giddy from being surrounded by such resounding joy. I walked as the church bells faded behind me until all I could hear was the sound of drums, creating an echoing heartbeat that seemed to emanate from the basilica itself.

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15 Bible Verses To Calm An Anxious Mind

Finding peace in the midst of turmoil.
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Anxiety hits us from all directions. Whether it be school stress, work stress, a stressful family situation, or anything else in life that causes us to feel unsettled, tired, and afraid of the future; anxiety can feel like it's taking over our lives.

As someone who constantly struggles with anxiety, I know how hard it is to find peace in the midst of a stressful situation. When we feel anxious about something, we generally try to do all that is in our power to control the situation. When we can't control it, we become even more anxious. So how do we stop this downward spiral of anxious turmoil?

We must turn to the one who is in control of all things. God holds all of our lives in his hands and is the only one who can calm our anxious minds. When we frantically struggle to put the pieces of our life together on our own, we will fail.

The only way to gain peace in the midst of anxiety is to turn to God, trusting in His perfect will and His power to hold us in His hands. The best way to remember this truth is to look to the Bible. Here are some verses to help us remember God's provision in the midst of anxiety.

1. Philippians 4:6

We don't have to be anxious when we can freely talk with God about our needs. We can cry out to Him for help and He will hear us.

2. John 14:27

Peace is a wonderful thing. Notice how it says, "I do not give it as the world does." We have to remember that worldly peace is only temporary, but God's peace is forever.

3. Isaiah 41:10

Not only will God give us peace, but He will also strengthen us. The image of God "upholding us with His righteous right hand" is pretty powerful and very comforting.

4. Psalm 94:19

Anxiety can make us sad and upset, but knowing that God is with us can bring so much joy in the face of desolation.

5. Psalm 34:4

Freedom from fear is so empowering! Imagine God setting us free from all the fear that holds us back. Oftentimes fear can make us feel trapped, but God can set us free.

6. 1 Peter 5:7

God cares about us so much, that He allows us to cast all of our worries on His shoulders.

7. 2 Corinthians 12:10

Human capacity is limited. We can by no means do everything, in fact, we can't do anything without the help of God.

8. Philippians 4:13

Nothing can hold us back or scare us when we have the strength of God.

9. Proverbs 3:5

We always try to lean on our own understanding, but it will never be enough. We try to control everything, but it will always fall through. It is because of this that we need to trust in the Lord for everything.

10. Matthew 6:25-34

This passage, while somewhat lengthy, is such a great reminder that God is truly in control of everything. We don't need to worry about a thing because He has it all planned out. We stress out about things that were never ours to worry about in the first place.

11. 2 Timothy 1:7

We were not created to be afraid, but to be empowered and loved by God.

12. Isaiah 26:3

If we simply keep God in the forefront of our minds, we will have perfect peace. Trust in Him brings the greatest peace.

13. Matthew 11:28-30

How comforting is this? Anxiety causes a lot of weariness but knowing that we can rest in God is amazing.

14. Jeremiah 29:11

God has a plan for us, so we don't need to worry about it. His plan is always good and always exactly what we need. His plans will always be better than anything we try to control ourselves.

15. Isaiah 41:13

When we feel anxious and afraid we can take comfort in knowing that God is reaching out His hand to us to help us trust Him and walk with Him.

While anxiety can feel overpowering or terrifying, we should not fear, but rather trust in the perfect and never-changing love and peace of God.

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Open Air Preachers Don't Belong at Marshall

There are appropriate ways to share about Christ, and these guys just don't get it.

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Marshall University has an absolutely beautiful campus. After spending 4 years here, spending time around the memorial fountain is honestly going to be something I miss. During the week, campus life was usually always so bustling and exciting. There always seemed to be something going on at the student center plaza, some of which was more pleasing than others.

This past year on multiple occasions, Marshall had a few unwelcoming visitors. Some preachers came in, usually with signs, and would stand along a path that most of the student body would take on their way to and from class. They would start yelling Scripture to anyone who might be listening, but they were very rude and derogatory in their proclamations. One guy had told a girl that she would go to hell for the shirt that she was wearing. Another one was shouting, "God hates gays!" It eventually got so bad that they were banned from campus, multiple times.

As a Christian myself, this makes me so angry to see other people that claim the name of Jesus treat others poorly. Jesus wasn't like that. He was gentle, kind, and loving. That's part of being a Christian. It's what you sign up for. I personally don't believe that these "preachers" should be allowed on Marshall's campus because of the way they represent Christ and how their actions might affect students.

As mentioned previously, I am a Christian myself. I believe that being a Christian is more than a label. It is a calling to live your life in a way that exemplifies Christ himself. I personally know that I do not live up to this calling and fall short of it everyday. However, I know there is a difference between someone who does wrong and recognizes it as such and someone who willfully acts a certain way.

These preachers coming off to nonbelievers in the way that they are is doing more harm to the church than good. People aren't going to want to be a part of something that involves being rude to others. I know some people growing up that have been turned off from the church by another Christian who didn't act like a Christian. Being a Christian doesn't mean you have to like everyone. There are definitely people I have met that I am not fond of; but I am called to still see them the way God sees them, whether that be a part of His family or part of the mission field. Either way, God loves them.

Also, words are very powerful. It is very easy to either lift someone up or tear them down with what you say. When the open-air preachers are telling the LGBT community that God hates them, that is just discouraging and pushing them even further away from the Lord, which is terrible. Also, criticizing someone for what they wear can be very destructive. You don't know what a person is currently battling. Maybe you're not the first person to make a derogatory comment about their outfit. Maybe they can't afford to buy new clothes at the moment. Maybe they are dealing with a much more severe storm and simply don't need unnecessary, petty comments.

Personally, I think it was a good move when these guys were banned. They are not doing themselves or anyone else any good. There are appropriate ways to share about Christ, and these guys just don't get it.
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