Thursday, April 28, 2016

Free time in Rome!

Sister Marie Paul and I arrived in Rome on Monday and had two free mornings (up to about 2 pm for me) and visited some amazing spots. Yesterday we got a private tour of a former temple complex adapted to be a Christian basilica in 526. The original altar is still in its place (actually on the floor below the current 15th century church floor), and under the altar is the tomb of Sts Cosmas and Damien, the doctor-twin saints (I offered a special prayer for all doctors, particularly our dear Pauline cooperator Dr Jeffrey Mathews).

We stood in front of the altar and noticed the mosaic floor. "When was the mosaic put in?"  we asked. The priest responded nonchalantly, "Oh, in the 500's." And we were just walking all over it so unceremoniously! Mind blowing. In the "upper" church, the original Byzantine-era mosaic apse is still visible (although the 24 elders from the Book of Revelation who once graced the triumphal arch were cut out by the poorly-thought-out Baroque addition of side altars which left visible only two outstretched pairs of arms, casting their golden crowns before the Lamb.
Our guide, the Father General of the Franciscan TORs, pointed out that the mosaic Christ was a rare depiction of Our Lord with Semitic features. In fact, Peter and Paul (who were just as Jewish as Jesus) are portrayed like Roman gentlemen, while Jesus looks like the Jewish peasant that he was.

We also passed by St Peter's but it was a Wednesday (public audience with the Pope day) so there were tens of thousands of people in the square, and maybe 3000 in the security line to go through the Holy Doors. We didn't even try go in; just did some pictures. (The best time to go to St Peter's is first thing in the morning but I was too tired for that today. We're aiming for the 7:00 Mass (and the Holy Door) there once our meetings here are over.) (Our seminar includes passing through the Holy Door at the Basilica of St Paul: send me your intentions to pray for at both of these amazing spots.)

Yesterday we also paid the 12 euros to go into the Roman Forum and see the recently restored frescoes from the ancient (8th century) church of Sancta Maria Antiqua (worth the price of admission on its own). It had been covered in icons (done in fresco), and though much of the painted surface was lost, they have done an incredible job of restoring what remained. There was a kind of light show with multiple projectors tracing the outlines of the original frescoes over the walls and then filling in the missing parts so we could see what the Church looked like circa 800. One large side chapel featured a graphic novel style presentation of a child-martyr and his mother. On the other side of the "Via dei Fori Imperiali" we noticed a Baroque-era facade of a Church dedicated to the same two saints.

The day before we had a guided tour under one of the churches where there was a Roman-era street
and where supposedly St Luke had lived. It also had an ancient church and early medieval monastery (and frescos). From there, we wandered around visiting whatever churches were open (a surprising number have been open during the usual siesta hours--perhaps for the Jubilee of Mercy). So along our way we saw four Caravaggios, the tomb of St Monica and the skulls of St Agnes and St John the Baptist, in addition to the desiccated heart of St Charles Borromeo. We passed the (closed-for-siesta) church where the head of St Peter Julian Eymard is kept, and visited the tomb of St Catherine of Siena (whose head is in Siena). (It was a day of weird relics.) I lit a candle at the tomb of St Catherine.

I have had two meetings already--for a commission I am on that is completely distinct from the work I came here to do. My "real" work begins tomorrow when the seminar on "apostolic mysticism" starts. I will be doing simultaneous translations for the English speakers (from India, Philippines, US, Malaysia, Singapore and for our Vietnamese-American sister who is stationed in Taiwan and who is also attending the seminar). It is a big group (around 50 participants) from every part of the world. We have sisters here from UK, France, Germany, Madagascar, Mozambique, Congo, Kenya, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and probably other places I have forgotten already. Oh, yes, Colombia--the sister from Colombia was in the spirituality course with me in 1998, and one of the Italians worked with me in the Vatican Internet Office during the Jubilee 2000. The seminar will keep us busy until May 8, and then Sr Paul and I have two completely free days. Our own Sr Margaret works in the Vatican and will get us into some not-open-to-the-public spots. God willing there will be one more day after that to wander among the art, history and holiness of the Eternal City. I hope to have more amazing pictures for you then!


Nova Scotia Dream said...

God Bless You! I wish that I could travel and see such sights. Thank you so much for sharing! I do have an intention, to Saint Catherine; My Mother has become very ill and strangely so, terrible tremors and dizziness. She has given her whole life to my sister and I, and we took every bit of it! God Bless her, she has an unconditional love that inspires me always. Even now, in her illness, she spends her time in the company of at least one of her grandchildren at all times. She lives for these four girls; as she did for my sister and I. She has the wisdom of Catharine and patience! Please, if you could, ask for intercession for my beloved mother, still so young, at 57, her name is Denise. She leads a life of poverty and in care of her family, and has always done so. She just lost her own mother who was too sick to be one proper and raised her own sisters as a young girl. She is always at Sunday Mass, and though I have been an awful child, it is there that I can truly hug her and tell her how much I love her, at the peace of Christ giving. I have become a Catholic over the past few years, and it has made my life come together, in ways that before, coupled with my ilness, I never thought possible.
I will be praying for you Sister Anne and for Sister Marie; Please, if you can, pray for my Mother Denise Christine L.
Love & Peace to you both,
Asaph L. L.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

You bet!