The sun was slowly beginning peek through the clouds and a cool breeze floated through the silent streets of Rome. It seemed like any other Sunday, until I turned the corner and arrived at St. Peter's Square. The line of pilgrims started at each entrance and wrapped around the fence the separates Roman territory from Vatican territory.
The crowd was made up of Canadian, Australian, Spanish, Polish and Italian pilgrims waiting to see one of their own declared a saint, all showing their excitement in their own way. One Australian group was playing a didgeridoo, another was entertaining the other groups with traditional Australian songs. The Canadians were not the most vocal group, but their joy was no less evident.
Before the gates to the square opened I spoke with the Bessette family, who are second cousins of Saint André. The family of three have a longstanding devotion to Saint Andre. They prayed to him when they couldn't have children and low and behold, Andrew Joseph came along. Naturally, he was named after Brother André. The family was deeply moved to see their relative being raised to the altars, so to speak.
Another woman I spoke to said her Grandmother used to tell her about Brother André, the distant relative who would come to visit every once in awhile and when he did, people would line up at their door to see him.
St. Peter's square was full of people from Canada and Australia who could share similar stories about Saint André and Saint Mary MacKillop. But, when it came time to actually enter into the liturgy, a hush fell across the immense crowd and the congregation entered into prayer. Something that sadly, does not always happen at an outdoor papal mass.
The brief meeting between the Holy Father and the postulator for each cause was brief but intense. From meters away one could sense the joy and accomplishment that each of those postulators experienced knowing their work was finally done, the Church had finally recognized what they and so many others had known all along.
Emotions were still running high as pilgrims streamed out of the square after the mass, off to celebrate "their" new saint, many still wiping tears of happiness from their eyes.
As the prayerful joy spreads throughout the city with the pilgrims, we say, "Saint André, pray for us."