The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



An unfailing spirit

Kelly Meehan | Friday, April 8, 2005

I always knew that studying abroad would prove to be one of the most adventuresome times in my life – however, I did not anticipate what would be in store for me while spending this semester in Rome.

On Jan. 24, I had the opportunity to see Pope John Paul II at what was one of his last public addresses during his weekly papal audience held in an auditorium off of St. Peter’s square. I did not really know what to anticipate, but I was very anxious to be able to see the pope in person.

When he was wheeled onto the stage it was apparent that his health was failing, but not his spirit. I listened to his every word as he spoke five different languages to welcome people from all over the world to his Church. He spoke slowly and continually impressed upon the crowd his ideas for peace and his hope for a better future led by today’s youth.

It was in this past week as I watched the population of Rome double that my reflection on attending his audience really impacted me. Living less than one mile from the Vatican, it is apparent that John Paul touched the lives of so many. I am reminded of this fact by watching the increasing number of pilgrims arrive to Vatican City each day and stand in line for over twelve hours – through the heat of day and chill of night – just to have a 30-second glimpse at his body.

I was fortunate enough to have only waited for five hours to view the pope. Waiting in line was perhaps the best part of the entire experience. It gave my friends and I an opportunity to meet the people who came from so far to listen to the devotions and songs being offered to the pope in the square.

It is anticipated that the Pope’s funeral would be regarded as the largest manifestation of humans in modern history with over 3 million people in attendance, all pushing to be part of John Paul II’s life.

My experience here became more unbelievable when I learned I would be one of the fortunate people in the Vatican City on Friday morning. Starting at 6 a.m., I will be babysitting the children of a Swiss Guard who lives in an apartment bordering St. Peter’s square.

When I left for Rome I did not know what to expect, but I do know that being a witness to the events marking the death of Pope John Paul II has increased my understanding of the world community and proven to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life.