Amy Mintz already had won a free trip to Rome. In May she and her husband Jarod spent a week in the Eternal City with their two young daughters, Bridgette and Annie. The Mintzes invited their parents to join them. All agreed this would be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip.

And they were right.

Something incredible happened the day the family went to St. Peter’s Square with hopes of catching even a far-off glimpse of the Holy Father during his weekly public audience.

The previous day the Mintzes went to the Vatican visitors office to seek advice of where to go to get the best look at Pope Francis. Seminarians gave them tips, and the next morning Jarod and his Dad, Jeff Mintz, left the family’s castle hotel room at 6 a.m. to secure seats in the crowd. They got in line, and when the gates opened two hours later people ran toward the security checkpoints. The father-son duo from the Denver suburb of Arvada withstood the rush and found a spot for the rest of the family. And for the next hour plus they waved off other pilgrims who wanted their seats.

Finally, by about 9:30 a.m. the rest of the family joined them.

“It was just a cross section of the entire globe,” Amy Mintz said, describing the crowd. “People are there from everywhere. A man next to us was from Africa, and he was so excited to see the Pope. He was telling us, ‘I know he’ll kiss her.,’ ” referring to the couple’s youngest daughter, 9-month-old Annie.

Soon, they could see the Holy Father in the distance. They watched him move through the crowd, with security officers surrounding his Popemobile. As he drew closer, Jarod lifted up his baby girl. And then, when the Pope was just a few feet away, a security officer picked up baby Annie and held her up to the Holy Father. In a shaky, sideways video of the encounter, you can hear that section of the crowd ooh and ahh and cheer as Pope Francis kissed the child before he passed her back through the same chain of command.

It was a moment of pure joy, but the elation was far larger than this one Colorado family. It was shared by those around them, Amy said.

“Everyone around us wanted to hold and kiss Annie,” Amy said. “Can we hold your baby?”

It took a few moments to recover, but the family had that moment. Pope Francis had held, and kissed, their baby girl, a child born to a couple who met at church. Both sets of her grandparents were there to witness the moment. It was perfect.

Eventually, the family looked out and realized the Pope had remained in the crowd, and appeared to be making another lap through the throng of thousands of people. They couldn’t believe it. Jarod then picked up his older daughter Bridgette and stood her atop the security barricade. As the Pope drew near Jarod leaned Bridgette’s body forward and the almost-4-year-old held out her hand. The security officers weren’t picking up babies and Pope Francis wasn’t reaching out to touch others in the crowd. But he grabbed Bridgette’s hand.

“We were just blessed, and lucky. And it still amazes me. My two girls were singled out of the thousands of people there,” Amy said. “It was just an amazing experience. I could believe it, but I also couldn’t believe it.”

Amy Mintz bought one raffle ticket in December 2014, and she bought it just days before the Capuchins were to draw the winner of the grand prize trip for four to Rome. Brother Anthony visited Amy’s parish, St. Joan of Arc in Arvada, and sold tickets after Mass. Three days later, her cell phone was buzzed several times while Amy, a nurse, treated patients at the hospital where she works. After multiple calls from a telephone number she didn’t recognize, she thought something might be wrong so she took a moment to return the call. “I told my patients, ‘I’m sorry you’re in the hospital but I just won a trip to Rome!’ ”

Click here see Amy’s incredible story.

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