General audiences with His Holiness are held on Wednesdays around 10:30 am in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Hall of the Papal Audiences, St. Peter’s Square, or the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Tickets are free and can be received by writing to the Prefecture of the Papal Household. I got mine from the Church of Santa Susanna, the Catholic Church of the American population in Rome.
My plan was to get to the Vatican early for the best seats but the previous days activities were catching up with me. At about 9:30 am, I found myself staring at a sea of people all holding the treasured blue card to enter the St. Paul’s auditorium (Hall of the Papal Audiences).
Simply put, I was on a mission. I found myself cutting lines, being pushed through folks, and standing for endless minutes in the heat of the morning sun, packed like a sardine.
Michelangelo’s famous marble sculpture, the Pieta is here, protected by glass ever since a deranged man damaged it in 1972. There is a replica at the Vatican museums as well.
The Baldacchino was done by Bernini in 1624. Much of the bronze was borrowed from the Pantheon. Only the Pope or his designate may celebrate Mass under this canopy.
The Porta Santa (Holy Door) is opened only during Holy Years.
From the Basilica I walked over to Castel Sant’ Angelo stopping only for what had become my daily lunch – gelato! This fortress begun life as a mausoleum for Emperior Hadrian (AD 139), but it has over time served as a prison and as a residence for the Popes in times of unrest. There is a Vatican Corridor built in 1277 leading from the Vatican Palace to the castle. I didn’t give the castle the attention it required, however, I did find my way to the top for a wonderful panoramic view of Rome.
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there
seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into
my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw
them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain
was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of
this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is
satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual;
though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which
now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to
make him experience it who may think that I am lying.
Part 17, Chapter 24, The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus
I can’t help but think of the scene in When Harry met Sally where the older woman customer in the deli is heard saying to the waiter I’ll have what she is having.