Our Pilgrimage to Italy, Part I: Bobby’s First Holy Communion

by | Apr 15, 2013 | Liturgical Living, Parenting, Sacraments, Travel | 3 comments

Okay, so I may have underestimated the difficulty of getting First Communion from the Pope for your son.  Again.  After all, last time it came together so swimmingly.

But this time, with all the scheduling upheaval of a new Pope and this particular Pope’s way of doing business, we were not able to make much headway before we left for Rome.

But we knew that he said a daily Mass at the Cardinal’s dorm where he’s still living.  So, at 6:30 am the day after we arrived in Italy, we dressed up (our suitcases had arrived at our apartment just hours before!) and headed out to try to talk our way past the Swiss Guard.

We were in good spirits.
Well, most of us.
Although it was VERY EARLY.

It didn’t work.

This guy wouldn’t let us in.
Neither would these guys.
Just look how sad this guy is that he won’t let us in.

Attempt number two was to get into the VIP section of Pope Francis’ Installation Mass (as Bishop of Rome) at St. John Lateran on Sunday afternoon.  Usually you must request tickets to a public Mass in writing two weeks prior to the Mass and request  VIP tickets from the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies, but they didn’t have it planned two weeks in advance!  And we know a guy who knows a guy, which is how things work in Italy, but we couldn’t get any tickets at all, much less VIP tickets.

But, our friendly neighborhood Swiss Guard had told us to head down to St. John Lateran two hours prior and that they would be letting a few people into the Mass.  So that’s what we did.

But apparently, our friendly neighborhood Swiss Guard had told A LOT of people about that possibility. Thousands of people.  And with our big group, and especially handicapped as we were with the big stroller, we never stood a chance.

Jim and Bobby did manage to get up to the right door and talk to the right people, but nothin’ doin’.  They got a good view of the Pope’s arrival in the Pope mobile and the actual VIPs and ticket holders heading into the church.  And we actually learned during the trip that Pope Francis has yet to distribute Holy Communion to anyone but priests, which stacked the odds against us even more.

Here’s Pope Francis waving to Bobby.

But we did get to attend the Mass in the courtyard out front.  There was a big screen to watch, and the crowd around us was quiet and reverent (except for Frankie of course) and priests even came outside to distribute Communion.

After the Mass, Pope Francis came
out on the balcony to greet us.

But we didn’t do Bobby’s First Communion there.  We decided to wait for plan C.

Which was:  Back to St. Peter’s bright and early the next morning.  We met up at the Pieta with our friend Fr. Luke Buckles.  Then we headed down into the crypt to a private chapel.  It was dedicated to St. Benedict (Bobby’s middle name) and contains the tomb of St. Cajetan (Aunt Jeanne & Uncle Bill’s parish in Chicago) and it was really beautiful.  (But WAY TOO DARK for good photos. <sigh>)

We had a private Mass for our family and Bobby received his First Holy Communion and it was very special.

Such a helpful brother.

Thank you all for your prayers on our behalf.  We prayed for all of your intentions at St. Peter’s on that day, as well as throughout our journey.

Stay tuned the rest of the week for more on the trip, then we’ll be back to homemaking and homeschooling and Catholic living here at Catholic All Year.  I’ve got some reader questions, and they WILL be answered!


  1. Nanacamille

    I was there for all of the failed attempts to get to the Pope and it couldn't have been any more special than our family mass with Fr Luke in St Peter's. He made the entire mass directed to Bobby and his family. Breakfast after was delicious and the wider mouth frog joke not to be missed. We were truly blessed by the service.

  2. Susan H.

    Sometimes there are just no words, just lots and lots of gasping. This is AMAZING!!! My fave photo is of your son who is receiving holy communion being "helped" by his brother. With 5 boys I can relate. We are taking each of the boys (fingers crossed) to Rome before they are confirmed. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story!! 🙂

  3. Grace in my Heart

    WOW, what an amazing blessing for your family, especially your son! And you saw Pope Francis!!! How awesome! I love the photos and look forward to following along the rest of your trip. Thank you so much for the prayers too! 🙂


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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