109. What a difference a year makes

I had the great good fortune of spending Easter 2019 in Rome. My daughter Maria was there on business, and invited me to tag along. It took me less than 15 seconds to think about it and say yes, even though at my advanced age, hopping on a plane to fly nine hours for a long weekend is less than ideal.  But I knew it would be well worth it.IMG_1923Easter morning, she needed to do work (and probably also needed a break from Mom) so I headed over to the Vatican for Easter Mass.

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I wonder how the rosary seller makes his living now.

There we were, more than 70,000 people, jammed in together in St. Peter’s Square, as the Pope said Mass and then was driven through the crowd to wave, give blessings and clasp hands with the most eager who had worked their way, pushing and jostling the others, to the front of the rope line.IMG_1496 (3)All of this seems crazy at this moment in time. In just a matter of weeks, we have become conditioned to be apprehensive about everyone and everything, even when we’re fully masked and gloved. Looking back on my photos from that morning, we look like a bunch of Evel Knievel daredevils to be so close to each other.IMG_1437I do remember that when I went through the very light bag check to get into the square that morning, it crossed my mind that this would be the perfect iconic event for a high visibility terror incident, like the Boston Marathon bombing.


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Waiting to go through security

But never in my wildest imaginings, would it have occurred to me to be concerned about the plague.

I watched the Pope’s Easter Mass on my iPad this morning. Of course, there was not a soul in Saint Peter’s Square.


stpetersHe said the Mass inside the Vatican, with an audience of about a dozen, appropriately socially distanced.

Credit: AFP

I was interested that this was the first time the Vatican actually seemed like a church to me; I usually think of it as a combination art museum and must-see tourist selfie destination. I had the same reaction later in the day, watching Andrea Bocelli’s moving Easter concert at the Duomo in Milan, which took place first in the church and then on the front steps overlooking the piazza.

opera-icon-andrea-bocelli-performs-concert-from-empty-milan-cathedral-on-easterWhen has one ever been at that spot, and not been overwhelmed by the hubbub of the crowds milling about? It was terrifyingly empty and beautiful at the same time.

How long will it take us to feel comfortable again with the way we used to live without a thought?  Will we ever?

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Monday morning rush hour in normal times



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