Voices: Ringing in Pope Benedict

by Bryan Gonzales

October 18, 2005


After Commencement 2004, Bryan Gonzalez returned to the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, Italy—where he’d spent a summer with the help of a Dill Internship—to live and work in and later manage the gift shop, Corvus et Columba. Bryan expected "the adventure of a lifetime," and he found it: traveling to the Holy Land and serving Mass there, teaching English to Italian children while becoming fluent in Italian, acting in community theater, taking spiritual retreats with the monks, meeting with the man who became Pope, and attending the beatification of Mother Teresa in Rome.

Last spring he found himself at the center of the Catholic world during a time of vigil, mourning, and anticipation—and in an unexpected place of honor.

This from a recent email:

Although it was an unexpected move, I welcomed the opportunity to become Father Cassian’s administrative assistant. He has needed someone to organize his office and be his personal correspondent to the many needs that he simply doesn’t have time for.

The job change was providential—it gave me a chance to take a few days off at the beginning of April to spend in Rome when Pope John Paul II passed away. I traveled to Rome the Tuesday before the funeral, and was able to see the Pope that night and again on Thursday evening. I was lucky. I had to wait only three hours the first time and five hours the second—a much shorter wait than most people had to endure.

The experience was absolutely amazing. Indescribable. Aside from the sheer number of pilgrims who flocked to see the late Pontiff, there were people from practically every nation of the world. I was able to talk with native speakers of the three languages I know, but we prayed in Latin, the language we all had in common.

I kept vigil Thursday night in hopes of getting inside the columns of St. Peter’s Square for the funeral. But when the gates finally opened at 6 a.m. and thousands of fatigued, smelly pilgrims made a mad dash to the Square, we found it already blocked off—"saved" seats for dignitaries, priests, and religious who would be attending.

Alas, I watched the funeral on the big-screen TV closest to the Square down the Via dei Conciliazione.

After the funeral…the time of mourning…the conclave, and…"Habemus papam!"

I was elated to discover who would be the next to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter. I had met His Eminence Cardinal Josef Ratzinger in his office last summer in Rome following my spiritual retreat. I even gave him a few gifts from our shop then. After his election as Pope, he chose Benedict as his name—and Norcia is the birthplace of St. Benedict!

So, as much as I wanted to watch the announcement on television, I had a greater duty—to ring all the bells of our basilica at Monastero di San Benedetto! The tradition is to ring the bells in every church for at least 20 minutes, and that’s what I did.

A week following the election of the new Pope, our Archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia was invited to the Vatican for the first Wednesday papal address. Because I went with the monks, our seats were so good; we were behind the Pope near St. Peter’s Basilica. Toward the end, I took a picture of the Pope Benedict at a distance of about 10 feet

What a glorious event! What a week! I’ll never forget that day of the Pope’s election and the honor of a simple task—a Wabash man "ringing in" Pope Benedict XVI from the basilica in the birthplace of his namesake.

Contact Bryan Gonzalez


Wabash College • P.O. Box 352 • Crawfordsville, IN 47933 • 765.361.6100