Yesterday morning the Bishops and their accompanying priests concelebrated Mass in the Basilica of Saint Peter at the altar at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. It was a profoundly moving experience and during the Mass I prayed for my friends and family, for the many people who have asked me to remember them in my prayers here in Rome, and for you, the readers of this blog.
After the Mass we returned for breakfast and the Bishops then left for their meeting with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.
The priests and seminarians accompanying the Bishops met up with them after their meeting to go with them to the audience with the Successor of Saint Peter, Pope Benedict XVI to discuss the states of their Dioceses and factors common among the concerns of the Bishops (the Bishops of Wisconsin will meet with the Holy Father tomorrow).
We passed through several magnificent rooms, each one more splendid than the previous one and filled with beautiful furniture, paintings, tapestries and even books. Each room also had a throne for the Holy Father, but each of them were in a somewhat different style. This one is my favorite:
If I ever get to build a church, I'd like to incorporate colors like this into it.
The window looked out toward the Porta Santa Anna and gave an excellent view of the city.
After several minutes passed, we were ushered through two additional rooms where we were given a few brief pointers on how the audience and pictures with the Holy Father would proceed.
Finally, when the Holy Father was ready to receive us, we were brought into the Papal library and were introduced to Pope Benedict XVI. After greeting the Holy Father, we posed for a picture before he gave us a rosary.
Pope Benedict XVI is a small man and his age is beginning to show. Still, his smile - which is not always captured on film - is genuine and his interest in those he meets is sincere.
Afterwards, the priests and seminarians were escorted back to the room in which we had been waiting while the Bishops of Illinois met with His Holiness for about one hour (the Bishops of Indiana met with him after the Bishops of Illinois). When the Bishops emerged from their meeting with the Pope, we returned for lunch.
It was a morning I will not soon forget. Yesterday a great dream was fulfilled and I am deeply grateful.