Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Getting ready to say "arrivederci" to Roma: Part One UPDATED

Today was my last full day in Rome, and I think I did make the most of it. (More about that in subsequent posts!) Yesterday was a free day, too: I spent the first part of it with Sr Marie Paul--and it started quite early! In fact, Sister Bernadette from our Vatican-neighborhood bookstore came to the "Casa San Paolo" to pick up a community member who had participated in the seminar, so we hitched a ride with them at 6:30 this morning. That got us to St Peter's Basilica well before the 7:00 opening of the Basilica (and of the Holy Door).

We got out of the car near the "passetto" (the wall--with a passageway inside) that leads from the Vatican to Castel Sant'Angelo) and headed toward the famous collonnade. Spying a group of sisters ahead of us, I told Sr Marie Paul: "Follow the nuns; they know where Mass will be." Sure enough! Once the mighty gates of the Basilica were opened, we followed the sisters through the Holy Door and over to the transept altar where St John XXIII is entombed in glass. A woman brought over cruets and counted hosts into a paten as an elderly priest drew near. When he started the Mass, I couldn't believe it: I recognized him. He had been the usual celebrant of the 7:00 Mass at the next altar over, the Mass I usually attended when I was working at the Vatican's Jubilee Internet Office. But that celebrant had been a bishop (later named a cardinal). This elderly man with identical voice (and the same skill at giving an in-depth three minute homily) as the Piedmontese cardinal, but had no zucchetto. (He did, however, have a ring.) Zuchetto or no zuchetto, I am convinced that Mass this morning was celebrated by His Eminence, Paolo Cardinal Sardi.

After Mass I prayed mightily at the altar/tomb of St John Paul II. I had brought a list of prayer intentions with me and dropped them into a convenient slot (which may or may not have been intended for donations). Then a prayer at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, and a leisurely walk around those parts of the Basilica that were not blocked by cordons or wooden panels. At the various altars, priests were offering their morning Mass as the groups of tourists slowly began to fill the available areas. Another stop at the altar/tomb of St Pius X and we were on our way into the piazza looking for a cappuccino. (Got an excellent cappuccino at a rather classy cafe/enoteca near the Santo Spirito Church, just down the corner from the Jesuit's Generalate [world headquarters].) Meandered over to the Carmelite Church on the Via della Conciliazione (I think the martyred journalist, Carmelite Titus Brandsma, offered his first Mass there), and then to the Pauline bookshop. We had a lovely visit of this densely stocked and highly appreciated service to the world's priests, bishops and catechists, and then a great time catching up with our American sister on the staff (the Sr Bernardette who had been our chauffeur this morning).

We left the bookshop at 11:00. With the Roman custom of churches closing from noon until four, I
knew we would have to speed our way to Piazza del Popolo to see the incomparable Caravaggio "Conversion of St Paul" while the Church was still open. In fact, we had been in Piazza del Popolo on our first free day in Rome, but at just the wrong time of day. This time we made it! In fact, the way we took allowed us to get a peek at the ancient mausoleum of Augustus (yes, Augustus Caesar)! No real time for photos, though, if we were going to see the Caravaggio masterpiece.

I had forgotten how lovely the rest of the Church is, with its side chapels by Pinturicchio and his school, and interesting funeral monuments. (I confess, I took a picture of one of them to post on Halloween.)

From Piazza del Popolo, with all the time in the world (until our 3:00 appointment with Sr Margaret--for a visit to the usually-unseen parts of the Vatican--also the subject of a future post!), we wandered around piazzas (Piazza di Spagna, where the famous Spanish Steps were fenced off and being cleaned) and those churches that were open. One church boasted a shrine to the Madonna of the Miracle. (I was dubious, but the Church was open after 12:00 so we went in.) Mass was just ending, so we got a blessing from the priest at a gilded and
well-illuminated side altar. The main altar in the sanctuary featured an enormous scene of the martyrdom of St Andrew. I put two and two together. We were in Sant'Andrea delle Frate: the scene of the miraculous conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a Jewish agnostic and the very picture of a young man of the Enlightenment, had accompanied a friend on an errand. In the time it took for his friend to meet with a priest in the sacristy, Alphonse (left behind in the church) had had a vision of the Virgin Mary and was given the grace of an infused and comprehensive knowledge of the faith. Scenes of his vision and subsequent baptism flanked the side chapel, as did marble tablets telling the story in Latin and French. Nearby, a bust of St Maximilian Kolbe featured a marble tablet of his own: the World War II martyr of charity had celebrated his first Mass at the is altar. (Later in the afternoon we would visit the Church where he had been ordained.)

In the entryway to Santa Maria del Popolo we had seen a poster about the relics of the Apostles Philip and James being on display for veneration. I thought we had missed the event, but it was still going on, so our meandering was not entirely without a sense of direction: we were heading to the Church of the Holy Apostles (now the Church is dedicated to all of them but at its founding it was named for Philip and James the Less, whose remains had been there since time immemorial. That Church just happened to be in the neighborhood where I lived for eight months while taking a course in our community's spirituality, so I knew the area pretty well. It was also just two blocks from the magnificent Trevi Fountain... After visiting with the Apostles and praying for all my relatives named James/Jamie, Sister Paul and I stopped for lunch, courtesy of my family. The Pizza in Trevi restaurant was not cheap (as nuns' budgets go), but they custom-made a pizza that fit in with Sr Paul's special needs, and the two of us really enjoyed the ambiance and the food. (It was incredible.) They also have a less expensive "pizza by the slice" side (I confess I did not notice until we were on our way out), but that would have pretty much left Sr Paul out of lunch.

After lunch, we made out way up the steps to the Quirinale, a former Papal residence (far up from the swampy lowlands and positioned to benefit from the breeze) that was taken over during the days of Garibaldi and is now the official residence of the President of Italy. We were just there for the view of Rome and St Peter's beyond the many rooftops. Another short walk to see if Sant'Andrea al Quirinale was open (it was not) and we had to catch a bus to make our 3:00 appointment with Sister Margaret at the Vatican.

But that's a story for another day!

I am having trouble posting pictures via the iPad, so look for more on this post when I get back to Boston. Departure is 3:20 tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, so prayers for safe travels, too! Thanks!


Pat Gohn said...

"which may or may not have been intended for donations" --ha! I love your adventures!

Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP said...

There are so many yet-to-be-discovered treasures in this city. Thanks for the unveiling. Loved the detail. (I miss you both already!)