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Canonization Celebration: Benvenuta, Santa Teresa of Calcutta!

Canonization Celebration: Benvenuta, Santa Teresa of Calcutta!

Never before have I been so excited to wake up at 3:30 A.M.

Fully self-aware of my tendency to wake up at a snail’s pace, I knew that I required some moral support to leave the John Felice Rome Center by 4:00 A.M. So, I spent the previous night sleeping on the floor of my new friends’ Stephanie and Brenna’s room. (Oddly enough, I got better sleep than they did because the cool floor dulled the intense Italian heat. Santa Teresa was definitely looking out for me!)

With drooping eyelids but soaring spirits, our small but mighty group of devotees boarded the N6 bus downtown to the Vatican, where we waited (somewhat) patiently with thousands of other faithful people for the guards to grant us entry to Mother (now Saint!) Teresa’s canonization. These people represented all ages, ethnicities, occupations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and other identifiers. The electrifying passion in the air was almost tangible!

Canonization Line

Only one other time in my life have I felt this way.

As a Washington, D.C. area native, I was immediately reminded of the two Obama Presidential Inaugurations I attended in 2008 and 2013. Landmark moments in history—the swearing in of the first Black U.S. President and the canonization of a saint–only occur a few times in a lifetime. Compared to the millions of people these events affect emotionally, only a marginal (lucky) few get the opportunity to witness them physically. You have to be in the right place, at the right time.

Back in January 2009, it was a special time to be an African American living in D.C. Now in September 2016, it’s an equally special time to be studying abroad at a Catholic university in Rome!

Admittedly, some of the less glamorous aspects of the Inauguration bled into the Canonization. Sure, there were some aggressive line-cutters (CAUTION: Nuns have VERY sharp elbows!), funky outdoor restrooms with ridiculously long lines, and extreme weather conditions (the frigid Washington winter and smoldering Italian summer).

Yet, these small nuisances were overshadowed exceedingly by the overwhelming feeling of joy among the crowd! In line for the Canonization, our group waited nearby a family of Spaniards singing their hearts out with hymns. Just like at the Inauguration, the Canonization was full of nothing but sleepy eyes and good vibes. Everyone couldn’t be happier to stand outside and wait at 5 A.M…and we still had 5 ½ hours to go before the Mass even began!


After going through the rigorous (but colorfully suited!) Swiss Guard security, our group power walked as close as we could get with our tickets*. With the sunrise came thousands of more worshippers, some waving huge flags to represent their various countries. Perhaps the most frequently spotted flags, deservedly so, were the Albanian flag from Santa Teresa’s homeland, and the Indian flag from the country where she conducted most of her ministry and her first recorded miracle.

*By the way, the tickets were free of charge. This demonstrates how charitable and gracious the Church can be, even though these hot tickets were coveted to the point of Hamilton status!

At this moment, I realized the defining factor that made this Canonization different, and decidedly more profound, than the Inauguration of a Presidential “first”. Let’s look beyond the obvious factors of the U.S. Capitol versus the Vatican, the political versus the religious, or even the American versus the global. What separated this Canonization from that Inauguration was the fact that, despite any individual person’s political leanings, ALL human beings recognize INHERENT GOODNESS. None of us spectators were on the council of Cardinals that approved Santa Teresa for sainthood, and yet, by faith of our internal meter of morality, we INSTINCTIVELY KNEW that she belonged among the saints.

None of us checked a box…just our hearts. None of us had a say, but our souls answered for us.

I couldn’t help but cry behind my sunglasses. I will never forget this day.

Vatican Santa Teresa

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