The Stairs of St. Peter's

by Hannah Krebel

North Texas Catholic contributor

People walking through St. Peter's Square are seen from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in this 2013 file photo. (CNS photo/Eric Gaillardi, Reuters)

I am so excited to finally be here in Rome! I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to come here on a pilgrimage with my mother three and a half years ago, but I now understand why my mom says there is always a new way to look at Rome each time you come here.

I was on the first flight to arrive here in Rome, so we had a lot of extra time to do what we wanted before the rest of the pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort Worth arrived later in the evening.

Hannah Krebel

I knew what I wanted to do: Climb to the top of St. Peter's Basilica.

So, my mother, my sister, a few other people from our flight, and I, went to the Vatican. We had to get there very quickly because they stopped selling tickets at 4 p.m., and we only got off the metro 30 minutes before then. Hurriedly, we made it through security and to the beginning of the steps up to the dome of St. Peter's.

Had I'd fully understood how many stairs (551 total) we were going to have to climb up, I may have protested a little more. It was definitely a workout for the legs! But once we got up to the dome, the view down into St. Peter's was worth the sweatiness and shortness of breath. Looking down into St. Peter's was absolutely breathtaking. I could see how every picture in St. Peter's is made entirely of mosaics. The intricate detail put into each mosaic was magnificent, and to see them up close was amazing. Seeing the hundreds of people walking around on the ground, looking at the vastness of the church, I felt so small in comparison. As I continued walking around the dome, I saw the Holy Spirit window. This is a stained-glass window that has a dove surrounded by light. I love this window. As soon as I saw it, I could not take my eyes off it for a few minutes. I just stood there, and it seemed like everything else became quiet, and I could sense just how special it was for me to be able to be on this pilgrimage.

Of course, we were not done with the stairs yet. We continued onward and upward, now in between the inside and outside dome. This meant that as we were walking, we started to have to walk slanted in order to fit. Once we got to the very top of St. Peter's, we could see all of Rome and the Papal gardens. The view was absolutely incredible. I could see the beauty of Vatican City in a way that I had never been able to experience before.

But the best part of this first day in Rome was seeing people who were here for the first time and watching their reactions. That made me experience St. Peter's in a completely different way. Seeing the awe and wonder in their faces as we walked into St. Peter’s Square was priceless. I had almost forgotten what a blessing it was for me to be here. As we walked around inside the church after we walked down from the dome, I could see how beautiful the Catholic Church is.

We have already met several different groups from all over America who are also going to World Youth Day, which has only made me even more excited to arrive in Kraków. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us on the rest of our journey on this pilgrimage!

Hannah is a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller. She is a core team member for the Catholic Student Association at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and also works with the youth group at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Birmingham. She also volunteers for Alabama Awakening, a Catholic retreat for college students.

I am so excited to finally be here in Rome! I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to come here on a pilgrimage with my mother three and a half years ago, but I now understand why my mom says there is always a new way to look at Rome each time you come here.

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