Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hard at Rome!

Arrived in Rome on Saturday evening and got to work Sunday afternoon, translating conference talks
for a group of sisters taking a course in our congregation's spirituality. The program is being held in a conference building on the grounds of our world headquarters (Generalate). I have been here several times before, but this is the first time I have even seen the downstairs conference hall with its four booths for simultaneous translation. There are sisters here from India, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Brazil and Venezuela, but only the English-speaking sisters need a translator, so I am alone in the back section, working hard at keeping up with the presenter. For the most part this is fairly easy for me and entertaining as well; I am really getting a lot out of the conference material, which I am following attentively even as I translate it. Once in a while, the speaker gets really impassioned about the topic, and that point I do all I can to capture her attention and ask her to slow down. Yesterday, that involved me standing up and waving my arms wildly until the speaker noticed.

Since I had had a few free hours on Sunday, I was able to go to Saint Peter Square for the Angelus
with Pope Francis. I brought my voice recorder with me, and got some of the ambient sound, the youth groups singing and chanting and roaring their exclamations of encouragement; I interviewed people from England, New Jersey, Verona... I recorded the Holy Father's entire talk as well, where he spoke of the horrors unfolding in Iraq and the necessity of a political solution that would restore the rule of law. It is just as the reports said: you could hear a pin drop in that crowd of thousands.

For a while afterwards, I stood in the security line to go into St. Peter's Basilica, but realized that I would not have time to enter the Basilica and still get back for my translating assignment, so I walked through some of the familiar streets of Rome (and got a gelato while I was at it) before getting on the bus. While I was finishing my gelato a gypsy woman pleaded with me for a donation. I really did not have anything on me (and I was supremely irritated my her refusal to accept that fact); in the end, and only to get rid of her, I gave her the sandwich I had bought for my lunch. Later, I reflected: part of what irritated me was that she approached me as a stereotype: the tender – hearted sister who would surely have a heart for a poor, penniless woman pleading for a bit of bread (sorry to say, that is not me at all!) And I reacted to her as to a stereotype: the whining, importunate Gypsy (I am aware that gypsy is considered a derogatory term now – it is a stereotype, and this is the net in which I found myself trapped). Pope Francis challenges us to treat people in these circumstances like unique persons, not as examples of negative stereotype; to address them as individuals, and present myself as an individual as well. I actually hope I will not have another opportunity for this, but if it comes about, I pray that I will respond better.

On Monday, the group (and I with them!) visited the Coloseum, the Lateran Basilica, the "Holy Stairs" (transported from the Roman praetorium in Jerusalem by St Helena), the catacombs, the Church "of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem" (so called for its relics of the True Cross--including a chunk of worm-eaten wood with an inscription in Hebrew, Greek and Latin "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" that, incredibly enough, bears an interesting hallmark of authenticity) and St. Mary Major. I am ashamed to admit that I took selfies in several of these locales--mostly for my family (but also to share with you).

While the sisters got out of the bus on our final stop, I ran over to my favorite spot in Rome, just yards from St Mary Major: I knew I only had fifiteen minutes before Basilica of St Praxedes would close for a four-hour siesta. One of my last Euros went into the slot to light up the St Zeno chapel, a jewel of Byzantine mosaic. It was as much a service to the other visitors as it was an act of self-indulgence: unless the lights were on, they would have no idea how much beauty they were walking by.

In the afternoon, it was back into the booth with me, and that is where I spent most of the week. But tomorrow, we're in for a big treat: the group is headed to Assisi for a day trip! And on Assumption Day, Italy's official summer holiday (good luck finding a single business open), our group and the sisters of the Generalate plan to go to Mass at St Peter's, climb the cupola (for the able-bodied!) and visit the Vatican Museum. Once we get home from that outing, it's time to pack: the Pauline Family centenary is August 20, and we will be on location in the far north of Italy for the festivities. I was even asked to cantor the Responsorial Psalm for the Mass (in Spanish!) in the great Church of St Paul in Alba, a church constructed with bricks formed and baked by our own Pauline brothers and sisters.

Sorry for the haphazard graphic design in this post; I am doing this on an uncooperative iPad app... (It was really hard for me to leave the computer in England, but I decided to follow the Lord's advice about packing  light!)

1 comment:

Carina said...

Thanks for sharing this experience. Liked the bit about hearing a pin-drop as the Holy Father spoke.