The day pretty much started out like any other day. I got up early enough to get some time in the chapel to pray morning prayer before all the excitement began. There wasn't morning Mass as usual since we were encouraged to go to Mass later in the morning at St. Peter's. The first real conclave activity in the morning was the "send off" for the American cardinals staying at the NAC. They left from the Red Room which is so named because its purpose is to host the cardinals as they await news of conclaves and consistories. Each of the cardinals had a small bag with him as he prepares to spend at least one or two days at their temporary residence in the Vatican.
After the "send off" of the cardinals I made my way to St. Peter's square for the Holy Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff. We got pretty lucky with our seats. A bunch of us sat just behind and to the left of the main altar. It was a great view. We were there early enough to see most of the cardinals come in to the basilica on their way to the sacristy to vest for the Mass. The atmosphere in St. Peter's was really prayerful and peaceful. As it is customary, we prayed the Rosary before the Mass began. I couldn't help but stare at the main altar and think that right below it are the bones of St. Peter himself, and that among the 115 cardinals in front of me is the new successor to St. Peter. Reading the words above the main altar: "Tu es Petrus" You are Peter had a whole new meaning today as we sat there in prayer waiting to meet the new Pope.
The Mass itself was celebrated by Cardinal Sodano, the Cardinal Dean. There wasn't anything particularly different about the Mass. It just seemed sort of strange being there for a big Mass and not having the Pope celebrate. The vibrant red vestments of the the concelebrating cardinals stood out to me. I don't know why, but it was very striking to see them all in concelebrating Mass together. It is a very strong sign of unity. It shows that their focus in this election isn't personal or political, but grounded in Christ through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. It all reminded me of the importance of constant prayer and complete trust in God.
After the Mass the day pretty much went as usual. I tried to get some studying done in the afternoon after lunch. I ran a couple of miles in the ran. I'm running the Rome Marathon on Sunday. Even though that is now very far from my mind. Then later that afternoon as served as an acolyte at the daily Holy Hour and at Vespers. After Vespers we all made our way back to the square to wait and watch. I was pretty surprised by the number of people who came out in the square. It was pretty full. I took a mental note that for these next few days I better be ready to RUN to the square as soon as their is white smoke because it will sure fill up quickly. I'll have to keep my running shoes in my backpack when I leave for school in the morning.
But as you know the smoke was black and the first ballot, as expected, did not produce a result. There was little doubt that the smoke was black. It literally poured out of the stove pipe as you saw on TV. Seeing the black smoke, I realized just how exciting this whole thing is. To be here for all this is a huge blessing. I just want to once again assure you all back in the Diocese of Gaylord of my prayers for you all during these grace-filled days.