Say it ain't so, but for Rome residents the annual cursus of papal events can sometimes be treated as ho-hum and ordinary. But there are some events which grab even the attention of veteran vaticanisti.
One such event is a papal consistory to establish new cardinals. Called for in late October by His Holiness, the November 19 - 21 consistory seemingly grabbed the attention of Rome and thousands of pilgrims who traveled world-wide to see the creation of 24 new cardinals.
Three major events marked the weekend: the consistory itself on Saturday morning, when the 24 cardinal-delegates were elevated to their new rank, a Saturday evening "open house" when pilgrims may enter the Apostolic Palace to greet the new cardinals, and a Sunday Mass during which the Holy Father distributed rings of the office.
Sadly, hundreds were turned away at the security checkpoint for the Saturday morning consistory. St. Peter's Basilica may be monstrously large but it can't hold everyone. I was disappointed but I was especially sad for the pilgrims who had traveled from around the world for this one event.
A real highlight though was the evening "open house". This is a rare opportunity to see areas of the Vatican that a lowly religious like myself does not normally visit. I was able to greet and meet briefly in the Sala Regia with Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and in the Sala Ducale with Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
Both men recognized the Holy Cross habit, congratulated me on the recent canonization of St. Andre Bessette, and were very personable. Amato relayed that he remembers fondly his visit to Notre Dame two years ago.
Another utilized room was the Hall of Blessings where the Holy Father on occasion greets various groups. And it is from this large room where the various balconies look out upon St. Peter's Square - including the balcony where the newly elected pope is introduced. And no, I did not hear any "whisperings" while in the room.
I was honored to serve as a distributor of Holy Communion for the Sunday morning Mass. This particular papal liturgy was marked by the use of a brass quartet who stood in a balcony from the Hall of Blessings which looked into the nave of St. Peter's. While some cautiously lament the use of the brass as a form of a returning triumphalism, I found the honorable instruments to bring a welcome change to the organ-only program of post-Vatican II papal liturgies. I noted later that this same quartet played for Christmas Midnight Mass this year as well.