Praying in St. Peter’s

1 min read
St. Peter's Basilica
Our Sunday Visitor photos

I arrived in Rome late this morning. My first stop was Santa Sabina, the mother church of the Dominican Order. It’s here that we have for centuries had our international headquarters. The brothers of this community graciously welcomed me, I had a quick espresso and then headed out the door to St. Peter’s.

Father Briscoe
Father Patrick Briscoe in Rome.

Journalists were taken on a separate tour of the basilica. I appreciated the vantage points we were given of the crowds. From where I stood surveying the faithful, there were the anticipated crowds of nuns and priests, but I delighted in seeing that there were many young people, including families with young children.

One university student, Maria Chinchilla, who is studying art history and living in Rome for the semester, told me that her experience praying inside “felt nostalgic and very tragic.” She said, “You feel a sense of loss, that everyone is sad.” Like many pilgrims, she waited about 30 minutes to pray before the pope emeritus.

Seeing the crowds move through the basilica was striking because of how reverent they were. Only very light chatter peppered the basilica. I prayed for all of you, standing very near Pope Benedict’s body. I thanked him on behalf of you, our readers, for his service to the Church. I prayed that St. Peter would intercede for the Church and protect Pope Francis.

Another pilgrim, Brice Griffin, a homeschooling mother of five, said she came to Rome for the funeral because she thought the crowds would be smaller and that it was important to her to honor Pope Benedict by coming. “He was pope when I became Catholic,” she said. “Attending a papal funeral will probably be a once-in-a lifetime event for me.”

However, the photos of Pope Benedict lying in state fail to convey the reality that I always feel in St. Peter’s. The mortal remains of the pope emeritus are displayed in front of the main altar, under which St. Peter himself is buried. The connection is astonishing, symbolizing the link that connects Benedict XVI, the 265th pope, to the apostolic Church.

Toward the conclusion of the visit, we heard light construction under the floor, in the grotto under the basilica where many popes are buried, and where Pope Benedict will be laid to rest. While many preparations are underway for tomorrow’s funeral, including setting up chairs and all the other preparations outside in the square, I like to think I heard workers preparing the grave, ready to receive the pope emeritus.

Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, is editor of Our Sunday Visitor. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickMaryOP.

Father Patrick Briscoe

Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, is a Dominican friar and the editor of Our Sunday Visitor. Along with his Dominican brothers, he is host of the podcast Godsplaining and a co-author of "Saint Dominic’s Way of Life: A Path to Knowing and Loving God." He is also the author of the OSV seasonal devotional, "My Daily Visitor."