Around 10 am we were treated to the video Inside the Vatican. It was an appropriate foreward to the Papal Mass. As we approached Yankee Stadium it became apparent that we were at the end of a long stream of buses. It took half an hour to reach the parking lot and get off the bus. It was now 11 am. No problem! We still have an hour to get in the stadium, right!
We walked from the bus to the skybridge that lead to the stadium. Along the way volunteers were offering pilgrims free bottles of water and police officers reminded us to have our tickets out for a spot check. I was waved through with no problem.
As I climbed the stairs to the skybridge, I saw a simple sign on the stadium announcing the Pope's arrival. There were so many people in front of us that at times I wondered if the stairs and bridge would be able to support all the weight. I didn't need to worry. We crossed the bridge with no problems and I saw the mob of people. A police officer checked my ticket and told me which gate to enter (there would be fewer people there, she said). I walked to the gate and after half an hour I finally reached the gate. As I handed my camera and purse to the Secret Service another Secret Service agent barked, "Bleacher tickets will not be accepted at this gate!". What! I just waited in line for half an hour and now you tell me! I had asked before getting into line if this was the right line and I was assured that it was. I pleaded my case, but it was futile.
Now I only had 15 minutes to get into the stadium before the doors would be closed. I kept thinking about the other diocesan pilgrimages where pilgrims had been left disappointed. (My diocese has a poor record for getting pilgrims into events. Pilgrims to World Youth Day in Toronto never made it into the Papal Mass, Pilgrims to the Consistory in 2006 missed both the reception at the North American College and Cardinal O'Malley's Mass of Thanksgiving.) I got into the line that the Secret Service instructed me to enter. The line was huge, but my Portuguese heritage and my Roman experience taught me a lot about dealing with lines. Yes, I cut in front of several hundred people. To them, I apologize. I trust that if you had just spent half an hour in a line only to be told that the person who told you it was the right line was wrong, you would understand. ;-)
After having my purse and camera bag emptied and searched, I passed through the Secret Service check and entered the stadium around 12:05. I recieved a package containing an issue of Catholic Digest, the Gospel of John, an issue of NY Priest, a poncho, and a white handkerchief. I could hear the music from the Concert of Hope through the speakers. Now, where were the bleacher.
I couldn't find the bleachers anywhere, but as I looked through the openings onto the field the sanctuary was beautiful! I had to get a program from another entrance because we weren't given them at my entrance, actually the same entrance I had originally tried to enter. Yes, I had to pass that entrance to get to my seat. Makes sense, right? I finally found my seat and what a disappointment. I couldn't see a thing.
Part 2 can he found here.
Photos by Domini Sumus