Seated at last in St. Peter’s Basilica, waiting for mass to begin, I had a few moments to reflect on this unique moment that we are living. There had been the usual rush from the house to catch the train, then the wait in the line for a few hours, then beeline for the seats as close to the aisle as possible etc., but at last I could catch my thoughts, and try to take in a little of all that was going on. St Peter’s Basilica is marvelous any time of day, but as the 5:00 mass for Ash Wednesday approached, the late winter sun streaming through the windows made it more marvelous still. The letters in gold around the dome gleamed, but from my seat in the nave, I could only see a few words of the famous phrases, and these were first TU ES PETRUS, and then below MUNDO REFULGET. Put together, “You are Peter, and it shines through the world.”
What better phrase for the last public mass of Benedict XVI. I felt blessed just to be there with him, to smile as he passed a few feet from me. To listen for the last time to his calm steady voice, the voice of a teacher. It was his gift of teaching, his quiet wisdom, that I loved most of all about him. Therefore as a personal tribute of sorts, I would like, over these coming days, to gather together some of his words, as well as my own experiences and those of my companions, as we have the grace to be so close to it all.
These reflections are as much for me, as for anyone else. It is easy, actually, to get used to living in Rome, to attending audiences, or going to mass in St. Peter’s, to having the Pope always close by. But that has changed now.
Yes, Holy Father, you are Peter, and it does shine through the world, shines as perhaps never before. We can no longer take for granted what will so soon be gone.