I’ve been home from Rome for a week now and I admit that I’ve become a bit of a Rome-dropper (as opposed to a name-dropper). My Facebook page, Twitter feed, and website are covered with Rome references and for good reason: the whirlwind trip was among the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life.
Aside from “How was the Mass of Inauguration for Pope Francis?” the next most common question I’ve been asked is “How were you chosen to go?” While being careful not to say something I’m not supposed to, I can tell you this much: I was nominated by someone from Ontario whom I respect very much. He was among a group of three people who provided lists of 20 names or so. Then, an employee from the Prime Minister’s office had to whittle the list from 60 people down to 14. The final 14 were approved by the CCCB (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) and the rest – as they say – is history.
I only got one hour of sleep heading into the day as I was very excited to attend the Mass of Inauguration for Pope Francis; after all that was the whole purpose of this extraordinary trip. We had breakfast once again in our rooftop restaurant and were very encouraged by sun shining gloriously. Much of our table discussion was centered on whether or not to bring a jacket and/or umbrella
We met at 8am in hotel lobby and took a group picture with the entire delegation. It was quite an honour to be in the same picture as the Governor General and his wife, Members of Parliament, a Senator (government official not hockey player), and more. What made it even more special was the fact they used my camera as the official photographer had already left for St. Peter’s Square.
I woke up after getting just three hours sleep – my body (and likely my mind) is having trouble adjusting to being in four time zones in three days. Breakfast was available to us from 7am to 11am. Generally when given a four-hour period, I will usually opt for a later time. However, given this was my first time ever in Rome, I managed to get up by 8am and make it to breakfast by 8:30am. It was pretty cool: I sat between a Senator and the Director for the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute. I summoned my best table manners as we all enjoyed the breakfast buffet on the top floor of our hotel. The discussion was quite good, and I was able to share about my family as well as ask a few thoughtful questions.
After breakfast I made my way to the office that was set up to assist the Canadian delegation. I pulled out my hastily-written notes of recommended stores provided to me by Msgr. Smith and I punched all of the names into Google maps. A few printouts later and I was off to the metro station to experience my first train-ride in Rome.
I’m sitting here in my hotel in Rome and it’s still surreal to me that this is happening. With today being a travel day, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on God’s goodness and amazing generosity.
Things got off to an auspicious start as I prepared to take a shower at Ted’s place. His three year-old daughter knocked on the bathroom door and was absolutely shocked when I opened it. Obviously she was expecting to see her dad so I’m not sure what she thought when an Asian guy opened the door. To her credit, she didn’t cry (although she was about to) and I was able to blurt out “Hi…I’m one of your dad’s friends” before escorting her down the stairs to a smiling Ted.
We made it to the appropriate meeting place on the outskirts of Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in good time. Upon arriving, it was appropriate that the first person to greet me was my new friend (and bearer of good news) Ian. He asked me how things went in Regina and I thanked him for remembering. I thanked Ted for the ride and made my way into the hangar.