10/24/2022, DAY 1 in ROME
One of the best-kept secrets in Rome is to see the Colosseum at sunrise so we got up really early to do just that. It was glorious as we walked around it. Then we set out on foot and viewed the Forum Romanum, Venetian Palace, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon Basilica Santa Maria, and a couple more churches.
My brother told me how incredible these outdoor markets were. My favorite was the barrels of fresh spices for pasta, pizza, and just about any other combination you could think of. The smell was so fresh and of course, I picked up a few bags to bring home.
Monday evening we took a pizza-making class. This was so much fun. Who doesn’t love a good pizza? We learned how to make the dough while I consumed a glass (bottle) of wine. We laughed and had the most incredible time. Truly it was probably the best pizza we had ever tasted. I would highly recommend a class if you are ever in Italy!
10/25/2022, DAY 2 in ROME
Churches, Relics, and More
The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem was the 4th church out of the 7 we had visited. This church was NOT elaborate and glorious like the others. In fact, quite the opposite. When we walked inside, the church was completely dark… leaving you to feel cold and gloomy. We actually thought it was closed. The only light in the church was the light shining through the front doors from the sun outside. I saw a sign saying relics and had an arrow pointing to the very back of the church. We followed the long hallway into a side room. As soon as I entered, I felt an overwhelming sensation of pain and peace that I cannot explain. I found myself staring at the back wall, praying, and in tears. This was the vision I had weeks ago, it wasn’t a painting though. These were true relics of the Passion brought to Rome by St. Helena around the year 326. The collection of relics includes:
- A nail used in the Crucifixion;
- Two thorns from Christ’s Crown of Thorns;
- A finger that is said to have belonged to St. Thomas, who at first doubted the Resurrection, and then placed his finger in the risen Christ’s wounds;
- A fragment of the cross of the “Good Thief” who was crucified with Jesus;
- Three fragments from the True Cross;
- A reliquary containing small pieces of the Scourging Pillar; the Holy Sepulchre; and the crib of Jesus;
- The Title of the Cross: the inscription engraved on the Holy Cross shows the word “Nazarene” written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
Later in the afternoon, we picked up the Papel tickets at the US Bishop’s office. We were given Blue colored tickets. Then as part of our preparation for the Papel, I was offered confession which I quickly said YES to. I wanted to free myself of all darkness and anger I had been holding on to for years. It felt so good. We even went through an orientation of what to expect during the Papel. We need to be in line by 7 am. The Pope will be out at 9 am. It will run until 10-11a. There will be 80,000 people there. We will be in a special seated area in front of the standing section.
Whew! What a day it had been. I had some concerns that I had overdone it the last few days. I didn’t know if I would be able to stand that long. We spoke about it and decided to look for a wheelchair so I could at least sit and be off of my bad knee. Every place we called did not have anything available. Finally, one person did and said we could pick it up in the morning.
What exactly did I want spiritually when visiting the Vatican?
I think I just wanted a place of peace. I wanted to be able to sit in silence, and just listen. I know I could do that from anywhere, but this picture in my mind (the vision I had) of doing it at the Vatican seemed to have so much more significance. I wanted to be surrounded by the spirit of those who have walked down the spiritual path to sainthood. In order for me to live the life God intended me to live, I had to fully release the anger I had been holding on to, let go of those who have done me wrong, turn everything over to God. Again, you may say, “You can do that anywhere. It doesn’t have to be Rome.” That may be true, but for me, there was something calling me. I saw it in my vision and felt it in my heart. I always follow my nudges, and this was a strong one.
What were my expectations?
I didn’t expect a huge epiphany… clouds opening, angels appearing singing. Jokingly I told my friend that the Pope was going to shake my hand. We laughed! In all seriousness, I just knew I would feel lighter and closer to God and my role in this world would become more clear.
10/26/2022, DAY 3 in ROME
We woke up all excited. Today was the day! We took an Uber to the Vatican. I sat while Carina got the wheelchair. I was all smiles when I saw her bringing it up the hill. What an awesome friend I thought. She wheeled me down the hill and we got in the long line that was already forming. Out of nowhere this woman who worked there took us out of the line and told us to follow her. Carina and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and agreed. Wahooo! We went to the very front of the line and were the first ones in. Once through we had to go through a ton of security. Now comes the hard part… where is our section?
We asked a guard and he said I needed to park the wheelchair over there and walk in. We were perplexed. I asked why? Then another guard walked over and told me to follow him. That guard walked up to another guard and said, “let them in”. That guard took us to another guard, who took us to another guard, who took us to our seats.
OMG… We were on stage, where all the dignitaries sat, less than 20’ from the Pope. Surely someone made a mistake and we would be asked to leave, but no one did. 80,000 attendees and look where we were sitting!!!
Pope Francis says “desolation and sadness, though considered to be a negative experience, can teach us important things and strengthen us spiritually, if we know how to traverse it with openness and awareness.” Read what his message was the day we were there. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2022-10/pope-francis-discernment-desolation-general-audience.html
His message reflected what I saw in my vision and what I felt when I was sitting in front of the relics.
His message reflected what I spoke about during my confession.
Truly there is a purpose I am here.
When the Pope finished, no one was getting up. So we just stayed put, confused, and looking around. The Pope started going around and blessing the hands of each person on stage. I remember Carina saying, “Is this really happening?” I said, “yes!” We watched all the dignitaries give him items from their home countries. We had nothing but our faith to give him. I was so giddy like a child seeing Santa or receiving my first birthday present. I nearly cried when he came in front of me, held my hand, and then gently laid his hands on the back of my neck and blessed me. Then it was Carina’s turn. He blessed her hands and then continued down the rest of the row. After he finished a row, that row is dismissed. We were in a daze. I kept asking myself, “Why me? 80,000 people and I was just blessed by the Pope.”
I Believe In Miracles. Do You?
- We visited all the famous places you read about.
- We indulged in Pizza that Rome is known for and even took a class.
- We walked through some of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen.
- We attended the Pope’s Papel along with 80,000 other people.
- Not only did we see the Pope, we met him and were individually blessed by him.
On Nov 2nd, 6 days later after flying back to Amsterdam from Rome, I suffered a stroke and was in a coma for 3 days in the Netherlands. If Carina hadn’t been with me when I fell, I wouldn’t be here to tell my story. The calls and messages keep pouring in. The prayer chain was wrapped around the world.
I was in the hospital for 7 days. The staff was fantastic. I stayed with Carina and her family for another 5 days before being medically escorted home. When I got home, I was greeted with so much love and tears from my family. They didn’t think they would ever see me again or vice versa.
Thank you to all for all your support and prayers. I truly believe I was blessed for a reason. I always have God in my heart, but being touched and blessed by the Pope was a clear message of Hope, Love, Light, & Strength.
HOPE that I will have a future and do have a purpose.
LOVED by God and so many others.
LIGHT that I give to others, given back to me.
STRENGTH to push through physically and mentally.
My petitions are heard. Keep teaching and setting an example for others and learning from all our own experiences.My work here on earth is unfinished. Always remember yours isn’t done either. Live for today.