What does any practicing Catholic hope to do on a Sunday morning in Rome (actually, The Vatican)???â€¦ seek an audience with the new Pope, of course. How could we pass up the chance to show The Kid the impressive faÃ§ade of St. Peterâ€™s Basilica, hopefully get a glimpse of the Pope Benedict XVI (along with 10,000+ other groupies) and get a dozen rosaries blessed (our moms always said if you had the rosaries on you in the square while the Pope was blessing they were all officially “blessed”!) as pasalubongs for the faithful back home? Before the 11am (I think) appearance and blessing by the Pope, thousands of folks mill around St. Peterâ€™s Squareâ€¦ We shopped rather frantically for rosariesâ€¦let me tell you, highway robbery prices at those official stores near the square!!! Cheaper if you buy from ambulant vendors who sell you rosewood rosaries on the fly but we had already stocked upâ€¦ All I could think of the last time we were in the Vatican shopsâ€¦â€œthis must be the Saks Fifth Avenue of nuns and priestsâ€â€¦
At the appointed time, the windows of the private apartments to the right of the square (if you are facing the Basilica) were opened, a flag or crest was lowered and the Pope appeared to the cheering and waving crowds below. A reception fit for a rock star, if you ask me. I must say that after his brief blessing, he continued to greet the crowd rather fluently in about 6-7 languages! This Pope has very good public relations instincts, I think. Or he has a good consultant…if you know who I mean! I wonder what it would be like to get up every Sunday, open up my window, look down and have 15,000 folks cheeringâ€¦thank goodness they would be far enough so they wouldnâ€™t see I had not even washed my face yet!
The Pope didnâ€™t say anything about the impending premiere of that movie â€œThe Da Vinci Codeâ€ which was scheduled in Rome for just a few days laterâ€¦thank goodness the movie sort of fizzled out on its ownâ€¦ I didnâ€™t see the movie but I did like the book. A few days later, we returned to the Vatican to go through the museum and see the Sistine Chapel where my namesake is painted on the ceiling (this impressed The Kid). Frankly, I think the museum is a bit over the top and a bit overcrowded hall closet. They have so many incredible works of art but almost TOO MUCH considering the poverty and homelessness of so many Catholics around the worldâ€¦but thatâ€™s my personal opinion. It is nevertheless amazing how many artists the church employed in its heyday of art acquisition and creationâ€¦and almost every part of the Vatican museums holds some stunning or impressive piece of sculpture, painting, fresco, etc. And oh, a food tip, of course – the food in the Vatican cafeteria in the basement, while absolutely institutional, is very reasonably priced. Grab a salad and bulk pasta dish there instead of the restaurants just outside the Vatican where you will almost certainly be fleeced.