Thursday, March 12, 2009

In the class that we're in right now, we've discussed a lot about ecumenism and the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, and attempts to unite the two together as one Body. It has been a great class, with great discussions that have really challenged me to further explore these differences and work towards this unity.

Yesterday, we took the train to Rome again and rode the bus right to the Vatican. Ahead of us, St. Peter's basilica stood almost like this old and powerful kingdom that I hardly felt worthy to approach. Yet, that's exactly where we were headed. Already, there were so many people crowded in this smallest country in the world, in St. Peter's square. Our group was hoping for at least some chairs to sit in while we waited for the Pope to come out. We then proceeded to follow our professor Skillen through security, grabbed a special red slip, and walked past the standing people, the chairs, and right up to the very stage where the Pope would be seated. Yup. We had the best seats among the thousands of people. When I realized we were walking up to the stage like we owned the place, I said out loud, "What makes us so special??" In other words, "What did I do to deserve this? How did I get here?? Thank You, Lord!!"Skillen is apparently tight with two of the guards, which earned us the privilege of sitting in the crowd beside the Pope's seat.

The day was beautiful. The sun was bright and the sky was so blue. The bishops and the Pope greeted each and every group individually that was present. They spoke in Italian, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian, and more. Millions of people could only ever dream of being where we were sitting. It was amazing! I managed to get a decent photo of the Pope shaking the hand of one of he bishops. I'll try to post it soon.

After that, we had the opportunity to sit through a conference with one of the official Catholic authorities. It was held in a building right down the street from the Vatican. Halfway through, it hit me just exactly where I was. I was in Rome, in a conference room with my group, discussing ecumenical issues and approaches to bringing peace between Catholics and Protestants, and part of what may be a drastic and wonderful change in Christianity, unity in Christ among all denominations. The Catholic official called us ambassadors. We were working toward good, and the coming together of the Body despite differences. I felt so incredibly honored.

After the conference, we were given 5 euro each to get our own lunches wherever we wanted. I went with a few friends to a place that allowed us to get sandwiches/pizza and gelato for 5 euro. We ate it outside on a bench. In Rome. Just wanted to add that. Then we had a little under an hour to explore St. Peter's. I had no words. We've been in a dozen churches in Italy already, and I'd go as far to say that St. Peter's is the king of them. It was so big, covered in art, covered in gold, and filled with stone sculptures. It felt like royalty. I wanted to lay down on the ground and stare up, just soaking in everything I was seeing. What an atmosphere. What a feeling. What a life.

Tomorrow, we're going to Assisi. Next week we're going to Florence. On the weekend, I'm hoping to hop ship with some friends and either go to Paris, or to Bologna and Venice. Quite honestly, I'll go anywhere. I want to see it all. What an opportunity. WHAT A GOD!!!!!

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