Raynold and Vanessa D’Sa, a newlywed Mississauga, Ont., couple, chat with Pope Francis shortly after he blessed them while on their honeymoon. Photo courtesy of Servizio Fotografico de “L’OR” 00120 CITTA DEL VATICANO

Newlyweds begin marriage with papal blessing

  • July 14, 2013

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - Newlyweds Raynold and Vanessa D’Sa travelled to Rome for their honeymoon with hopes of receiving a group blessing from Pope Francis. But their dreams more than came true when the pontiff blessed them both individually, taking their hands in his as they knelt before him.

“It was probably the highlight of our life,” said the Mississauga, Ont., couple in unison. “It was on par with our wedding day,” said Vanessa. “Better,” added Raynold. “Maybe better,” she conceded.

In order to receive the special newlywed blessing following the Pope’s Wednesday general audience, couples must have been married in the Church within the last two months. The D’Sas — Vanessa is a nurse who has helped out in parish ministry and Raynold is an engineer and part of the praise and worship band All for Him — fit the bill as they were wed at St. Paul the Apostle parish in Burlington on May 17.

Their papal adventure began May 22 when the couple met up with their friend Br. John, a seminarian with the Legionaries of Christ in Rome, attending Mass with him at the Church of St. Anne, a parish in Vatican City. It was there the couple changed into their wedding garments.

Br. John then introduced the couple to the “second-in-command photographer to the Pope,” whose friend gave them an unexpected tour around the back of the Vatican, said Vanessa.

“We got to see behind St. Peter’s Basilica — nobody sees it from behind,” said Raynold.

Sitting in a section with between 15 and 20 newlywed couples, clergy, other large groups — and Italian soccer star Francesco Totti sitting in front of them — someone came over to direct all the couples onto the stage.

“We thought that he would come over and bless all of us as a group… I was shaking when I saw him start coming over to us. It was such a crazy thing to happen,” said Vanessa of the between 30- and 60-second experience.

“All I said was thank you, Papa,” said Raynold. “I looked into his eyes and there was so much peace. It’s just the Holy Spirit coming upon you and saying ‘I’m with you’ and a joy — that look in his face — and I saw his utmost love for the poor in his eyes. He didn’t have to say anything.”

It was very overcast, but about five minutes before the Pope came out — it was like World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto — the clouds completely moved away, said Vanessa, adding it turned into a scorching hot day during the general audience and blessing. “Then, we popped in somewhere for me to change out of my wedding dress right after the audience and we came out and it was pouring.”

As a couple, the intimate blessing means a lot to them as they start their lives together.

“Having the successor of Peter bless us and show us how much the Father loves us and even in something like that — an earthly gesture — He’s with us… and He shows His approval of this marriage,” said Raynold.

For Vanessa, she viewed the experience as a commissioning.

Reminded of a recent retreat they attended where vocations director Fr. Hansoo Park commissioned the participants to “go out as missionaries and change the world,” Vanessa said the papal experience felt similar.

“It was just another way that God proves He cares about the littlest things, like the desires of our hearts He wants to grant. He wants to make everything beautiful and do the impossible and make big things happen for us.”

(Santilli is a Toronto-based freelance writer.)

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