Yesterday, Thursday, May 20, we trained to Rome and then checked into the Roman Residence (where we stayed earlier in the trip). Massimo, the owner, warmly welcomed us back and had our very large and comfortable room ready for us, including the wedding clothes he had kept for us.
After sprucing up a bit, we took the metro to a small trattoria not far from the Vatican and spent the afternoon with about 40 dear friends from Kissimmee and Orlando who were attending the wedding of the youngest daughter (Anne) of our dear friends, Dr. John and Cleta Hartman.
John and I practiced family medicine together in Kissimmee, from 1985 – 2001, when we left Florida to join the staff of Focus on the Family. Before that, in 1978-1979, John and I had been family medicine residents at Duke and we share the common bond of rooting together for the Duke Blue Devils. John and Cleta are two of our dearest friends. We’ve seen our kids grow up together, and John was our family’s family physician for those many years.
If was a wonderful and refreshing time for us to catch up with dear friends and enjoy a fabulous Italian meal outside on an ancient piazza in Rome. Magnifico.
We were there from 2 pm until 5 pm, and then walked around the old city a bit, stopping in at the Pantheon and a couple of amazing churches.
After a restful night’s sleep, we were up and off to the Vatican by 930 am today, Friday, May 21st. The wedding was scheduled to start at 1030 am and we thought we had given ourselves plenty of time.
And, indeed, we were in St. Peter’s square by 1000 am, but the line to get in the Basilica backed up as far as the eye could see. We tried to get in via an exit, and were turned down.
So, Mrs. Barb put her head down and just bypassed folks who had been standing in line for who-knows-how-long, saying again-and-again, “We’re attending a 1030 wedding.” To my amazement, no one complained or even grimaced. They just let us by.
We were in the Basilica by 1015 am, finally found the private chapel (mind you, this is the biggest church in the world), and were seated in a choir stall just and the main gates to the chapel were opened and in entered the wedding party.
Whew. We just made it … which is critical, for once the chapel gates were closed and the curtains pulled, no one else was allowed to enter.
The wedding mass, co-officiated by two priests who had been friends when we lived in Kissimmee, Father John McCormick and Father Brian (both Irish, by the way), and could not have been more lovely.
Walt and Father Brian
The Vatican provided the organist and soloist, who were both amazing. Imagine Ave Maria being sung in St. Peter’s, with the perfect acoustics. Heavenly.
During the wedding, the Old Testament reading was from Genesis, chapter 2 (the two shall become one); the New Testament reading from Ephesians, chapter 5 (wives submit to your husbands, husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church); and the Gospel reading from John, chapter 2 (the miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast).
It was during the reading of this last section of Scripture that something amazing happened to me. I was listening to the words of the Gospel, and looking up at this amazing and ornate chapel, when Jesus’ mother’s words to the servants rang out to me as if she was speaking, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)
What more simple or profound advice could any of us be given to follow. Simply, “do whatever He tells you.” It was a special moment for me.
At the end of the wedding, Father John read a Papal letter that had been sent from his office to Sean and Anne and signed by him. Pretty cool. That wouldn’t happen at your average American wedding, eh?
Sean and Anne leaving the chapel at St. Peter’s as husband and wife
Then, the guards opened the curtain and the gates to let us out of the private chapel, to walk through the Basilica, across St. Peter’s square, to awaiting buses.
Walt and Barb outside St. Peter’s Basilica
Hundreds and hundreds of tourists snapped thousands of photos of Sean, Anne, and the wedding party. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to a paparizi feel.
From St. Peter’s, we were whisked up to the Villa Borghese and a private reception at a private villa on the grounds named Casina Valadier. For the next five hours we enjoyed an amazing view of Rome, fabulous food, a stunningly good jazz band, and the delicious fellowship that can only be had with the dearest of old friends – and the joy of seeing dear, dear friends enjoying the wedding fiest of their daugher.
Dr. John Hartman and daughter, Anne
John, Anne, and the Jazz Band — oh, and an Italian wedding cake!
During the reception dinner, we were each given a gold coin that had been minted for the wedding by friends of the family. On one side of the coin, was the Vatican Seal and the date of the wedding. On the other side were Anne & Sean’s names, two doves holding two wedding rings, and at the bottom was the quote, “Be kind to each other.”
Dr. Hartman explained that our good friend, Bill Prather, had always given this advice to couples and this was the advice that he and Cleta wanted to give Anne and Sean … always, always, always, “be kind to each other.”
Barb and I were sitting at a table with Bill and his wife, Polly. Bill explained that that advice did NOT originate with him, but rather with Polly’s mother, Edna Thacker, who had given it to them when they first were married.
Edna and her husband lived across the street from us when we first moved to Kissimmee. The Thackers loved us and our kids. In fact, our first small-group Bible study was in the Thacker home with the Prathers and Hartmans — and was lead by Father Brian. Small world, eh?
Anyway, it’s great advice for us all to remember, not only in our marriages, but in our relationships. “Be kind to each other.”
Finally, at 6 pm, the bride and groom were off. We shared some tearful hugs and good-byes with wonderful friends and then wistfully walked down the hill as the sun set and took the metro back to our hotel.
The last two days have been magical for us and we are grateful to the Lord for giving us this privilege.
So, we’ll rest up tonight and then hit the ancient streets of Rome for two more days of action-packed sightseeing, before we head home Monday.
Here’s the entire series:
Dr. Walt and Barb’s Italian Adventure — May 8-25, 2010
If you’ve ever wanted to go to Italy (or even if you have in the past), you’ll want to come along with us and enjoy the sites, sounds, food, and art.
Hopefully, this blog will stimulate you to put visiting these amazing cities on your to-do list. Just click on any of the days or cities you want to visit with us.
We’ve hoped you’ve had fun accompanying us on this trip to Italy, and that one day you’ll be blessed to experience and enjoy her yourself.