Rome Experience – A Roman Weekend (June 8 & 9)

Truly there is no greater city in the world than holy Rome! There are more beautiful cities, more powerful cities, cleaner cities but none greater. Where else has the genius of humanity intersected with the glory of the Divine for so long and with such brilliance and vigor?

Here is my little taste of it.

Saturday morning we had the regular time of Lauds at 6:45, 30 minutes of mental prayer and then the celebration of Mass followed by a leisurely breakfast. At 9:30 we walked down to the offices of the Congregation for the Clergy and had a wonderful 2-hour visit. First we were greeted by the Secretary, Archbishop Celso Morga who spoke with us briefly and gave us his blessing. Then we had a presentation and Q&A with two officials, Msgr. Kevin Gillespie and Fr. Ed Losey. In short, let me tell you how up-lifting it is two know that there are men of such quality as Msgr. Gillespie and Fr. Losey in the Roman Curia. They do hard and thankless work, but work of great importance and benefit to many, many souls.

At the end of our time we all together prayed the consecration to Mary that was offered by Benedict XVI when he went to Fatima during the Year for Priests. Also, I was given a copy of the new Directory for the Life and Ministry for Priests in Italian. The English translation is not out yet and it will help me to practice the language.

Both Msgr. Gillespie and Fr. Losey were very kind and encouraging when they heard about my impending move to Rome. It is good to meet priests who, while they clearly love and miss their homelands, do not suffer from the small-minded parochialism that I find in a lot of clerics. Speaking with Msgr. Gillespie and Fr. Losey was a great benefit to the calmness of my mind.

After lunch I prepared myself for a decent hike from CIAM to San Anselmo (the place where I will study) which are about 2.5 miles apart. It was a beautiful day and I had a little over a mile walking along the banks of the Tiber river. The river is a pale green but was moving fast and had the gentle sound of a fast-moving river. There is not much more peaceful than strolling in the shade as you follow the sound of the water.

Eventually I crossed the river on the Ponte Palatino and came to the foot of the Avventine Hill. What joys awaited! The road up the hill was very steep and so I had a decent sweat, especially since this part was in the sun but it was more than worth it. The first sight was a beautiful park across the street from the Camaldolese monastery; it was beautifully manicured and cared for with flowers, shade trees, nice pathways, benches and a view of the Circus Maximus and all of downtown Rome.

A short walk up the street and I got to San Sabina, the great Dominican church in Rome. Of course, not before I passed another park, less well cared for and shaded, but with a tremendous view over the Tiber looking at St. Peter’s! I made a brief visit to the church, which was not in very good shape in my opinions. The Blessed Sacrament chapel is a baroque beauty but the rest was in-impressive.

Nearly next door was San Alessio, a falling apart baroque wonder with all sorts of little treasures that were less than well taken care of. Here I might note that every church I visited on Saturday was preparing for or celebrating a wedding and, oh my, the Romans do it up. Beautiful in terms of decoration but that’s where it ends.

Then around the corner to San Anselmo, the Benedictine monastery and home to the Pontifical Athaneum of the same name, at which I will study. I was a treasure – leave the street through a small doorway and center a larger gravel covered area which leads to another small door. This takes you into a lovely courtyard. On the left, the entrance to the university, straight ahead, the church. I was taken aback at the simplicity of the university entrance – a single door with a little brass sign that had the name of the school on it.

I went to the church to do my mental prayer. The church of San Anselmo is very clean and well cared-for. It is not a wonder of art or architecture but is clean, simple, and lovely. I went to the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament prayed. Now, I saw that there was a set-up for a wedding, but only when my prayer just finished did I realize that the church had received guest, including the bride, who was coming down the isle as I was heading out – quite a visit!

A sidebar on weddings in Rome: they look great but are totally un-impressive. There is tons of commotion, noise, distraction, the priests looked completely lost and a general hodge-podge of irreverence and silliness.

I stepped into the bookstore, which was a pleasant combination of academics, liquors and every lovely things that monks have made. I enjoyed it immensely and, in a great act of detachment, bought nothing.

On the way home I stopped at the Basilica of San Bartolomeo alla Isola, where the relics of St. Bartholomew are kept and also Cardinal George’s titular church. It was a nightmare of wedding helter-shelter during which I tried to pray the Rosary and get away from that insanity. I think I venerated St. Bartholomew’s relics but can’t really be sure.

I went home, showered, prayed and went out for a fabulous dinner with Frs. Kime and Mahar in th Trastevere district. It was a beautiful night and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

On Sunday it was a quite morning of prayer and silence with a few cups of strong coffee while staring at St. Peter’s on a cool morning. I left CIAM in the middle of the Holy Father’s Angelus address in order to get to Piazza Navona to meet Fr. John Putzer.

On the way to Navonna I stopped to pray at Santa Agnese in Agone – I could to get to the relic of her head, but prayed while the congregation was celebrating Mass. Again, the liturgical life of your average Roman parish is a mess and totally in-inspiring.

Lunch with Fr. Putzer was at a little place a few blocks of the Piazza Navonna. We had three courses and then dessert (first time since I have been in Rome that I had dessert) and ended with a little limoncello. It was delicious and the waitress was as pleasant as could be. I was most grateful for Fr. Putzer’s kind demeanor, help with questions and willingness to talk spiritual things. As some of you know, Fr. Putzer is studying to become a member of the papal diplomatic corps and has all sorts of neat stories to share. I think we are both looking forward to being in Rome together.

When the 2 hour lunch ended I came back to CIAM, read, showered (it got rather hot today) and then had a Holy Hour with solemn Adoration with higher men. We are back on schedule and looking forward to a great day tomorrow.

I love you all like Jesus!

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