Lest the reader think me too dark or depressive, feel free to read this post as a counterweight to ‘Felix Roma Part 2.’ I do not change anything said in that post but wish, in this post, to let people know some of the things that Christians have brought to counterweight the immense evil that is at the foundation of this city.
As you may know, to save the world God sent His only begotten Son who is the visible image of the invisible God. The radical nature of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is one of, if not the most, shocking and beautiful aspects of the Christian Faith. It is beyond conception that the utterly transcendent God will incarnate in a human nature to show His Face to the world, leave His commands and bring salvation to the world from the inside out thus redeeming all and making all beautiful.
By His Divine Will and through human cooperation icons of this salvation have been left all over the world.
The Sacraments of the Church are the first and most important of those things. Holiness of life is the next of those important icons. From these things a whole treasure of Christian holiness, art, architecture, music, poetry, literature – in short, culture – has arisen. In no place is this more evident than in Rome.
Let’s take saints for one: no, we can’t know these things for certain until either canonization or Eternity, but there are SO many bishops, priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and lay people living and working towards a life of holiness that I am truly amazed. Indeed, I have met many people striving for holiness whenever I have been but here in Rome it is truly edifying. The house I live in, the Casa Santa Maria, would be prime example of that. Such a gathering of orthodox, hard-working, smart, prayerful, humble and good humored men would be hard to find anywhere else. This reality is replicated all over the city and is truly edifying.
Let’s turn to relics of Saints – after Sacraments and Scripture – these are the greatest inspirations and helps to holiness. First the princes – St. Peter and St. Paul have their mortal remains resting in the greatest shrines in the Christian world. Let’s see, who else? (Really some relic of all the Apostles are in this city), St. Gregory the Great, St. Leo the Great, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Pius V, St. Pius X, St. John Paul II, St. Josephat, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Aloysius, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Monica, St. Josemaria, St. Agnes, St. Cecelia – and these are just the ones I saw this week.
The relics of Cross of Christ, the tip of the spear that pierced His side, the Crib from Bethlehem, the Stairs from the praetorian in Jerusalem, the table used at the Last Supper, chains the St. Peter wore while imprisoned, the house where St. Paul lived while in Rome, the oldest known image of the Virgin Mary, and the list could go on.
Art? Let’s leave out all the ancient frescoes and mosaics whose creators we don’t know. We still have Michelangelo, Rafael, Bramante, Maduro, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Bernini. This is really a lame attempt as I am only listing things that come up as I write.
Let me just list some of the simple things in my neighbor hood to illustrate.
Out the back door in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles.
Not only is it beautiful and contains much moving devotional art, it houses the relics of the Apostles Simon and James the Less. Not bad. It also houses the relics of some early martyrs.
One block away out the front door is the Trevi Fountain.
Not a holy site but man is it beautiful, especially at night.
A five minute walk out the back door, on the famous Via del Corso is the church of Santa Maria in Via Lata.
Not only does this place house a beautiful and very ancient image of our Lady, it has Eucharistic Adoration every night from 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm, does and amazing apostolate for the poor in downtown Rome, it also happens to be built on top of the house where St. Paul lived during his house arrest in Rome. St. Luke also lived there for a time.
About a 10 minute walk from the Casa is the Basilica of Sant’Iganzio. Oddly enough St. Ignatius is not buried here. But you can venerate the tombs of St. Aloysius or St. John Berchmanns, or, if that’s not enough, St. Robert Bellarmine. Oh, the ceiling is both beautiful and a giant leap forward in the history of art.
The church of Sts. Charles and Ambrose is not ‘in my neighborhood’ but is only a 15 minute walk down the beautiful Via del Corso, heading to the very beautiful Piazza del Populo. Also, I visited there today to do my mental prayer and pray Vespers.
Oh – and the heart of St. Charles Borromeo is there.
All this and more is in this city because Peter shed his blood here, Paul preached here, martyrs died for the Faith here, Saints lived for Jesus here, Popes governed for the good of the world from here, artists sacrificed their gifts for God here. God has placed such unique goodness in this city for two millenia and it is far from over. What I have listed above is only a small part of the glorious things in this city.
It is a privilege to live here and I hope to honor it with my work.
O felix Roma!