An Unexpected Treasured Memory
A reflection by Mrs. Alice Bolster
“A reading from the letter to the Ephesians. Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ…” I paused while reading the second reading at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, took a deep breath and continued. How did I come to be standing here, at the lectern, on the altar under the Bernini Baldacchino at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome?
Having recovered from a relatively mild case of Covid-19, I felt safe to travel. But where would I go? Rome was the site of the last trip I took with my late husband, Bob, and was close to my heart. I had travelled to Rome twice before when my son, Fr. Rhodes Bolster, was studying there. I particularly wanted to experience the Eternal City without any agenda or expectations, being open to whatever experiences Our Lord wanted to send me. Abandonment to Divine Providence was my goal.
On the morning of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, I had not yet decided where I would attend Mass. Five Churches were within easy walking distance; all had multiple Masses for the Holy Day. I thought it would be fitting to go to celebrate the Immaculate Conception at St Peter’s. The Basilica had back-to-back Masses, mostly in side chapels, so I decided to attend the next one offered. I decided to wear the best clothes I brought, in honor of Our Blessed Mother. I then ambled over to St Peter’s, along with thousands of others.
Security and health measures were tight. Upon entering St Peter’s, I asked an official when the next Mass would be offered and was delighted to learn that Mass in the main church area would begin in fifteen minutes.
I made my way to the pews in front of the high Altar, which is positioned over the bones of Saint Peter, and began to prepare myself for Mass. There were many people and many languages being spoken, the universal church made manifest.
A uniformed official walked down the aisles asking if anyone was from Holland or Belgium. A few minutes later, he again walked by, inquiring for anyone from the United States or Canada. He looked in my direction and I raised my hand answering, “Yes, I’m from the Unites States.” He asked, “Then English is your native tongue?” “Yes.” “Would you like to read the second lesson?” Oh, my. “Yes, but I’ll be nervous,” I answered. He provided instruction on this role, then I went back to my pew to wait for Mass to begin.
The procession was lengthy, with around thirty Cardinals, priests, deacons, and acolytes. Mass began in Italian. All was a blur, as I was a bit shocked at what I had agreed to do. St Peter’s Basilica is huge and there were many people from every tribe and nation attending that Mass.
As the Mass progressed and my time to deliver the second reading approached, I called on Our Blessed Mother and my guardian angel to be with me, hold me up and assist me. With this heavenly help, I was able to walk to the podium, read the lesson and walk back to my pew without mishap.
Back in the pew, as Mass continued, I felt stunned, shed a few tears, and couldn’t believe what I had done. But, of course, I could only have done it by holding on to the edge of Our Lady’s mantle.
I am humbled to have been sent this blessing. The culmination of seemingly random decisions: this church, this Mass, these nice clothes, all pointing to reading Sacred Scripture in our Mother Church on a special day for Our Lady. Graces upon graces.