By Elliot Williams*
VATICAN CITY — This is my last post for CNS — at least for the time being — so I’m going to get sentimental. I want to compare the first time I attended Pope Francis’ general audience in March to my most recent attendance, which was yesterday.
The first time I went to the audience, I found myself nestled in the crowd, vision blocked by a young man taking a selfie:
Two months later, I was past the barricades at the very front of the crowd with a team of professional photojournalists:
How was this change in location possible, you ask? Well, it took months of learning about the Vatican and how it operates, writing stories about all things Catholic, and developing a journalistic persistence that I observed in every journalist at the Vatican.
Usually quite reserved, this professional confidence didn’t come naturally to me, but is the product of dedicated guidance from my wonderful colleagues at Catholic News Service. I am sad to say goodbye, even though I cannot wait to return home Saturday. This bittersweet feeling comes from a realization that these past three months working in Rome have changed me.
I have become more spiritual, in the sense that I study sacred Scripture more often, and know significantly more about the Catholic Church than when I arrived.
I am also unafraid of being the new guy in a new place anymore. In fact, I’ve grown to appreciate newness, that feeling of temporary discomfort that is often more exciting than being completely familiar with a situation.
Changing locations teaches you a lot about yourself and makes you appreciate things you might never have realized you had access to. Peanut butter, for instance, isn’t nearly as available in Rome as it is in America. However, you quickly learn to love everything the city does have to offer, such as Rome’s selection of every Nutella product you can think of.
At Pope Francis’ audience on Wednesday, he spoke of three phrases that can improve family life, one of which is “Thank You.” Thank you, he said, expresses gratitude, and helps maintain meaningful relationships. Thankfulness is “the language of God,” he said.
In this light, I am so grateful for all that I’ve been blessed with this semester abroad. I don’t know when I’ll ever have an experience so meaningful again, but if there’s one thing I learned from this trip, it’s that anything is possible when you believe in yourself. As a friend at CNS once told me, as soon as you convince yourself that you’re capable of something, it’s much easier to convince others of the same. (Pope Francis clearly waving to me:)
So with that, here’s “goodbye” and “thank you” Rome, Vatican City, and Catholic News Service. Arrivederci!
Elliot Williams is a Communication major at Villanova University. He is originally from Abington, PA, and is studying abroad at Roma Tre University, while interning for Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau.