A full week of full nights of sleep?
I am a new woman. All of the things are clean. ALL OF THE THINGS.
I was going to write something lovely and meditational for Maundy Thursday and/or Good Friday and/or Easter, but. I didn't. Oh well.
I will say that Pope Francis seems like a pretty cool dude. I don't know if you're supposed to call the Pope "dude," but I'm not Catholic, so it's probably okay.
I'm not Catholic, but five years ago, I was in Rome for Holy Weekend (if that's not what it's called, it should be). We went to mass in St. Peter's for Good Friday, then out to the Coliseum for the stations of the cross. On our way out of St. Peter's we bought a loaf of bread and some cheese at a corner store, and all my pictures of us at the stations of the cross involve this GIANT loaf of bread. I think we named it Tony.
On Saturday, we went back to St. Peter's for the Holy Saturday vigil mass thing (I didn't know, prior to that, that Catholics had to go to mass on Holy Saturday, but apparently they do). The line to waiting to be let in to St. Peter's was forever long. We were in line behind a group of nuns from...I want to say Morocco, but I could be wrong there.
Anyway, these nuns were hilarious and very friendly. We shared snacks while waiting (probably the remains of Tony, honestly), and we managed to convince the nuns that it's an American tradition to toast with your food. You know how you clink beer or wine glasses together before drinking? We were doing that with bread.
Then our Catholic friend felt guilty about lying to nuns and told them that wasn't really how the Americans did it, but I insisted that yes, it really was, and continued to toast my food for the rest of the time we were in Italy, because I am good at nothing if not beating a joke to death.
We finally got in to the mass, where I got in trouble with my Catholic friend for talking and spilling candle wax on my pants.
I'm not sure why she was mad at me for spilling wax on MY pants, but there you are.
Rereading this, I wonder that my Catholic friend put up with me at all. I was being obnoxious. Which is weird, because I was actually very excited to have mass in St. Peter's and see the Pope up close and in person (well, I think I was the fourth person in from the aisle when he passed by; that counts). It was all very solemn and ceremonious and moving, but I was trying to explain things to our Non-Liturgical Christian friend and I'm clumsy and I swear I wasn't trying to act like a five-year-old, but not all of us have preternatural sitting-still abilities.
Ok, so we didn't get out of that mass until about one or two in the morning. The trains had long since stopped running, so we and about twenty thousand other people needed to catch taxis home. This was an adventure that perhaps deserves its own post sometime, but it ended with us driving the wrong way down a one-way street, backwards, because every stereotype you have ever encountered about Italian drivers is absolutely, one hundred percent true.
Catholic Friend exacted her revenge on Non-Liturgical Christian Friend and me the next morning. Though we hadn't arrived home until well after three, we had to be back at the Basilica at some ungodly hour, seven or eight a.m., all packed and checked out of our hostel. I'm not entirely sure how we did it, and without coffee, but Catholic Friend did it with a smile on her face.
Non-Liturgical Friend did it grousing like a champion grouse, but she also found us coffee and pastries while Catholic Friend and I saved us seats. Between Catholic Friends manic single-minded slave drivering and Non-Liturgical Friend's liberal provisions of our drug of choice (caffeine), I made it there.
But. It was...I can't even describe how beautiful and perfect that morning was. Sunny and warm, the most perfect, clear spring-morning light. The crowds of tired/happy people in their fancy dress clothes. The sound of myriad languages being spoken. The gleaming white of St. Peter's. The third Latin mass in a row; we were starting to catch on to it a bit. The cardinals and the Pope decked out in red and white and gold.
It was...I'm not Catholic, but it was an experience I'll never forget. For the first time I actually felt the globalness of the faith, the ancientness of it. The bigness of it.
The joy of Easter was tangible in that moment.
Pope Benedict XVI, good ol' Ratzinger, speaks Latin and Italian with a German accent. My linguist ear loved listening to his papal address, though I have no idea what he said. I didn't need to. I'm a very rational, analytical type of person and do not entirely approve of touchy-feely church experiences, but that day, the emotional experience was enough. "Things from the heart don't have an explanation."
I've always loved Easter, the transformation from the darkness and black of Good Friday to the brightness and white of Sunday morning. The return of the Hallelujahs, said over and over and over again because they've been gone so long and you just can't get enough.
Three masses in a row in Latin and Italian and I didn't understand any of it, except those Hallelujahs. Over and over again. Hallelujah. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Hallelujah.
Happy Easter, friends.