My month of May was filled was unexpected blessings as I made an impromptu trip to Rome for the first ever “Vatican Blogger Meeting.” The meeting was hosted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications. The councils anticipated that many bloggers would likely be in Rome for the Beatification of Blessed John Paul II. On very short notice, they organized a half-day conference for bloggers. Interest in the event was immediate and widespread, with writers from around the world making application to attend. At the end of the quick application period, 150 writers were randomly selected. I learned to my great surprise that my name was on the list, and quickly began organizing my first real trip to Italy.
As it turned out, the blogger meeting was only one of the amazing highlights of my trip to the Vatican. During the course of my five-day visit (planned on the spur of the moment and largely possible due to the support of my publisher Ave Maria Press and a private donor), I attended the Beatification Mass, the Mass of Thanksgiving, a private Mass in the Crypt at St. Peters, and the Wednesday audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Sleep was in short supply, the food was amazing, and I learned that my “cute” American shoes were not made for walking on cobblestones. With enough Italian to say “please,” “thank you,” and “gelato,” I set off for the spiritual adventure of a lifetime.
Certainly, for me, the highlight of my spur of the moment pilgrimage was standing in the thick of over a million fellow Catholics, crying for joy at the moment of the Beatification. Nestled between a group of Polish nuns and some pretty feisty Italian housewives, I sang and prayed and rejoiced with the rest of the crowd – each of us in our own native languages, but united as a one, holy, catholic and apostolic nation of believers whose lives had been touched by this incredible man. My mind flashed back upon the three days I’d spent on my couch when Pope John Paul II died – in those moments I would have done anything to be present for his funeral… I remember pondering the crazy thought of jumping on a plane and simply camping out in St. Peter’s with the rest of the mourners. And now, there I was, six years later, huddled with so many who owed the intensity of their faith to many of the teachings of “JPII”, the only Pope many of us had ever really known. I couldn’t see the altar from my vantage point that Sunday morning, but my heart felt “at home” with my fellow pilgrims.
Honestly, a few weeks after this amazing experience, I am still praying about and absorbing so much of what I learned and experienced in Rome. Our Vatican Blogger Meeting was another highlight – as much for the informal relationships and conversations that flourished though “in real life” interactions as for what was formally presented from the dais that day. I’m thrilled at the direction that the Vatican has planned to take with respect to implementing new media technologies in evangelization, communications and catechesis. Over the next several months, as we watch their initiatives being unveiled, Catholics will be able to take great pride in the fact that our faith leaders really “get” the importance of being on the cutting edge in communications, but more importantly holding fast to the true teachings of our Church. My fellow bloggers around the world are equally committed to using our keyboards and mobile devices to help share our passion for the Good News. On our blogs, our Facebook profiles, and our Twitter accounts – and with whatever new tools come along – we are each living out the great commission in our own ways.
This is an exciting time to be a Catholic blogger!