From tourist to pilgrim(?)

By June 23, 20102010, Europe

Tourism. Adventure. Journey. Pilgrimage.

Any one of these could describe the Europe trip so far. Depending on my attitude and the place that I’m at, one of those classifications could be accurate at any given time, other times it is all of the above. Seeing the pope today falls into the latter of the two.

First off, tourism. I’m not going to lie, the first thing that came to mind when I found out about the opportunity to hear the pope in the Vatican City was how awesome it would be to get a picture and then go back home saying how I’d seen Benny 16 himself.

Then the adventure began. I hunted down the details online, went to the Vatican the day before and got 20 tickets for those in our group that wanted to go. (Where my Swiss army knife was nearly thrown out by, ironically, the Swiss Guard – ask me about it if you want  to know more.)

The morning of, we woke up a bit earlier than normal and set out on our journey – tickets in hand … or pocket. Arriving in St. Peter’s Square, the crowd wasn’t as massive as I had anticipated, but even worse than a crowded square was the relentlessly blazing sun. This definitely raised the stakes – if I were just in it for a picture, I probably would have left after 2 minutes. But alas, I was there for over 2 hours and stayed for the whole address (8 languages later – does that make the pope octolingual?)

What drew me into staying was the feeling of being a part of something bigger than just me, my pictures, and this trip. In the moment all I could think about was w0ndering how many languages the pope DIDN’T know and how long one bottle of water could sustain multiple people in the brutal heat. After the fact though, it hit me how much seeing the pope meant to the people there and that to some of them, this was the culmination of a lengthy pilgrimage from distant lands.

Even if seeing Benedict XVI wasn’t any kind of grand epiphany for me, it showed me yet again how important it is to try to see the world through other people’s eyes. By doing this, maybe I can come to appreciate the rituals and traditions of others in order to help me discover more of who I am as I travel along on my own pilgrimage.

After all that, my pictures of the pope weren't even that great - but here's me in St. Peter's Square right after the main event! -Dan S.