The morning of Blessed Teresa's canonization found our pilgrimage group on the bus at 5 a.m., headed to St. Peter's Square. Our tour guide told us that the lines already were so long that we would have to be dropped near Castel Sant' Angelo, (about a half mile from St. Peter's Square) but then the bus driver said because we were such a small group (13 of us) that he was able to let us off much closer.
That was the first of many small acts of kindness I noticed throughout the day.
Another such occurred as we were standing, packed like sardines, waiting the 90 minutes until the Square was opened. Near our group were a couple of Missionaries of Charity, in their distinctive blue-lined white saris. One of them was somewhat elderly, and not up to the stress of standing so long, so one of my fellow pilgrims loaned her the folding chair the tour company had thoughtfully provided for us.
As a thank you, the sister gave Susie a prayer card with a picture of Mother Teresa, and embossed in that card are a few threads from a sari that saint had worn - a second-class relic.
"I just stood there and almost cried," Susie said.
Then, during the rosary that preceded the Mass, Diane couldn't find the rosary she had brought. The rosary has special significance because it was the one her daughter had when she died. This is the second anniversary of her daughter's death, and for Diane this pilgrimage is a commemoration of sorts.
When Diane couldn't find her rosary, she asked if anyone had an extra one. Susie handed her one in a box with a picture of St. Therese the Little Flower, and Diane's daughter Patricia was born on the feast of St. Therese.
"I felt Patricia's presence so strongly right there," Diane said.
Another kindness occurred during communion. You have to imagine the crowd-thousands upon thousands of people all massed together. We were outside the neat rows of chairs, so there were no orderly lines. One of the pilgrims in our group is quite petite--she stands perhaps 4'8" tall--and she was having difficulty finding her way to one of the priests who were distributing communion. She asked a complete stranger, and he guided Charlotte through the crowd to a priest.
Some of our group found themselves at a spot on the route that Pope Francis drove, so they were able to get his blessing as he went past.
For Julia, who has faced some difficulty recently, seeing the Holy Father so close and receiving his blessing was "a God moment," she said.
Meanwhile, Daphne was struck by the thought that there in St. Peter's Square, ringed by the statues of saints and martyrs, we were "surrounded by a cloud of witnesses," and for the canonization there was both "a heavenly ceremony and an earthly one," she said.
For myself, I had no spiritual revelation. My personal experience was that of the flesh--the discomfort of standing pressed shoulder to shoulder for two hours, annoyance of being shoved along through the crowd, the distraction of the tailgate atmosphere as some of those attending the canonization took selfies as the rosary was recited, or talked and ate during the Mass.
I confess disappointment in my experience because I am oddly accepting of it. Would I have liked to have had a "God moment," as did Julia and some of the others? Yes. And in fact I had prayed that I would. But that prayer wasn't granted. What I did receive, however, was the need to hear the stories of others, which in a way was its own revelation, because it showed me how God works in such different ways in other people's lives. It was a humbling experience as well because it made me realize again is that this is not my story, much as I like to think that it is; rather, it is our story, and I don't even have a starring role.