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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I always tell my dad that no matter who I date, he's always my number one guy. Sometimes I say it as more of a routine thing. However, the meaning behind it is all too real. For as long as I can remember my dad has been my one true love, and it's going to be hard to find someone who can top him.

My dad loves me when I am difficult. He knows how to keep the perfect distance on the days when I'm in a mood, how to hold me on the days that are tough, and how to stand by me on the days that are good.

He listens to me rant for hours over people, my days at school, or the episode of 'Grey's Anatomy' I watched that night and never once loses interest.

He picks on me about my hair, outfit, shoes, and everything else after spending hours to get ready only to end by telling me, “You look good." And I know he means it.

He holds the door for me, carries my bags for me, and always buys my food. He goes out of his way to make me smile when he sees that I'm upset. He calls me randomly during the day to see how I'm doing and how my day is going and drops everything to answer the phone when I call.

When it comes to other people, my dad has a heart of gold. He will do anything for anyone, even his worst enemy. He will smile at strangers and compliment people he barely knows. He will strike up a conversation with anyone, even if it means going way out of his way, and he will always put himself last.

My dad also knows when to give tough love. He knows how to make me respect him without having to ask for it or enforce it. He knows how to make me want to be a better person just to make him proud. He has molded me into who I am today without ever pushing me too hard. He knew the exact times I needed to be reminded who I was.

Dad, you have my respect, trust, but most of all my heart. You have impacted my life most of all, and for that, I can never repay you. Without you, I wouldn't know what I to look for when I finally begin to search for who I want to spend the rest of my life with, but it might take some time to find someone who measures up to you.

To my future husband, I'm sorry. You have some huge shoes to fill, and most of all, I hope you can cook.

Cover Image Credit: Logan Photography

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I'm A Woman, Proud And Strong

I like the color pink, and I still like to win.

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I'm a female. No matter how big the mountain, how rough the terrain, how difficult the task, I am fearless. I am a warrior. I am a woman.

I've spent most of adolescent life sitting back and watching society turn into something so cruel and mean, full of intense hate and slander toward anything that is considered even the slightest bit different. Growing up, I was tossed into this world of constant masculinity and lack of vulnerability where I was told what I could and couldn't do and what I wanted and didn't want for my life. My entire life was created for me, and the same was true for my close friends and family members who had fallen victim to this ugly place we call home.

And yes, being a child, obviously, you have to have some kind of guidance from teachers and parents, those who are supposed to help you grow instead of pinpointing every single detail of how your life should run. However, there comes a time when each and every person, no matter gender or sexuality, should be able to choose their own path.

I was never liked in my time in public school, and now that I reflect on my time there, I realize that it wasn't because I was an unlikable person. It was because not a single person understood WHY I was the way I was: I stayed to myself, I learned to have a backbone, and I sure as hell DID NOT let any man, or any person for that matter, create a path for me to walk. Women are not doormats. We are strong individuals who have just as much a brain as any other gender in the world. I don't do laundry, I don't clean, and I don't cook. Am I still a woman? Absolutely.

We are underestimated and have been throughout all of history. Our voices have been silenced since the beginning of time, but now we're considered butthurt because we want equality?

I've believed in God as long as I have been born, but I have never once thought that He loved me any less because I decided to stand up for myself instead of bowing to another person. Yes, He created woman from man. But, is that why He gave us the strength of childbirth? Why we are considered the nurturing figure? Why are we as women, mothers, and queens of our time, capable of loving everything with our entire being and still considered the weaker sex?

I am a product of a small town; I am a product straight from a molding masculine household where there are jobs for a woman and jobs for a man. However, I am also the product of a poor education system. I am a product of hatred and sexism. I am a product of a society that has been against my gender since the beginning of time, not just in modern times.

But, even through all of this, I also know for a fact just what women can do when put in a room together for a large amount of time. I've watched nothing turn into something great in the hands of women. I've watched women fail but use failure as encouragement to move forward. I have been a woman who has had doubts but has used her fears to create and empower others. So, don't look at me and tell me that you can't be "feminist" because the Bible tells you that you can't be.

God made us strong.

He made us caring.

He made us amazing.

He made us female.

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