Friday we had nothing until the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion (with the Holy Father inside St. Peter's Basilica) at 5pm. So I had the day to pray, to reflect, to rest...
Then at 3:30 I needed to be at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel inside St. Peter's in order to receive instructions to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion during the Liturgy. We arrived and went to the chapel - where we sat in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in reserve.
[You thought you had seen a big ciborium before? NO WAY. These were HUGE! I searched for an internet photo of them - but no luck. They were huge, golden bowls with lids and a very nice, but simple, veil covering them. Remember that the veil is the sign that the hosts within the ciborium have been consecrated and truly are the Body and Blood of Christ.]
As we were in the Blessed Sacrament chapel, many of the Cardinals and Bishops began to arrive - as they had been invited to come spend some time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament prior to the Liturgy. And they did come - including Cardinal I'Brien. Naturally, as they gathered, we were ushered out... to prepare and get vested. They provided each of us with a surplis and red stole - so that we all matched. As Divine Providence would have it - we ended up in front of the altar of Pope Saint John Paul II - he keeps "showing up" - he's a big part of this journey (see the blog entry from my first day in Rome).
|I DID take this photo|
We were then all led up to the front left (behind the Papal Altar) where we were seated for the Liturgy. The Pope came in and, as every priest does at the beginning of the Good Friday Liturgy, he lay prostrate on the floor - the sign of humility and adoration.
|Not my photo - found it on the web...|
Following the Gospel - as per custom - the preacher of the Papal Household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa preached the homily. Then the Universal Prayers of all universal prayers - literally praying for everyone! It was interesting, normally we pray for Francis our Pope - but of course here - it was the Pope presiding, so his words were slightly altered: "...in your unending kindness protect me your unworthy servant, that the Christian people, entrusted to my pastoral care, may grow in merit by reason of their faith..."
The Solemn Adoration of the Cross followed - the Cross was carried up the LONG center aisle of St. Peter's by the deacon - flanked by two candles - stoping several times to proclaim "Behold the wood of the cross..." Then when it reached the front, the Holy Father removed his chasuble and stepped forward to adore the cross.
|Again, not my photo...|
I got back home just in time to meet Deacon John Kuchinski (one of our Harrisburg seminarians studying here in Rome - who, by the way, will be ordained a priest on June 4 - so keep him in prayer) to go to the Colosseum for the Stations of the Cross. To use Fr. Kyle Sahd's expression, "it was a complete and utter disaster!"
|This was the mob scene trying to get in to the Colosseum|
We walked from St. Peter's to the Colosseum. As we passed the Victor Emmanuel monument and walked down the main street leading to the Colosseum, we noticed that the street was blocked ahead by Italian Police and security. Not a surprise - there's been a lot of extra security this week (especially following events in Brussels this past week). However, the crowd came to a complete stop as we all tried to funnel in - one-by-one - through the security checkpoint.
We were at a standstill for a while - then the crowd seemed to surge forward - then a standstill, then another surge... and this cycle repeated. The stations began - surprisingly there was no speaker system allowing us to hear what was going on - so people talked and mingled as we waiting for the next surge toward the security checkpoint. Some around us were following the Stations via Twitter - so we knew... 3rd station; 6th station; 9th station... Finally we were approaching the security point- thinking we might finally be allowed into the area surrounding the Colosseum - only to be told by the officers, "The event is over - this is now an exit. Turn around!"
Oh well, we tried - we can say we were there...