The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, September 19, 2008

More catching up; final post from Rome

As you can all attest, I haven't been a very reliable a blogger on this trip. We have, though, been busy and this touristy stuff is a full-time job. I will try to fill you in on the events of the past few days...

It's 5:30 pm on Friday and I'm sitting up in bed with Diane napping beside me. The sound of the rain (it's been raining all day) outside the window is almost enough to put me to sleep, but I'm fighting it.

Wednesday morning began with the papal audience. It was held indoors in the huge audience hall, so that was a new experience for us. The two previous audiences we attended were both held in St. Peter's Square. We were advised to arrive early at 8:30, although the audience doesn't begin until 10:30. We had to wait about 30 minutes outside, then pass through security before entering the audience hall. Thanks to Sister Maria at the North American College we had "special" tickets which allowed us to sit in the front section. Our 90-minute wait wasn't at all unpleasant. The seats were comfortable and we enjoyed wonderful conversation with our neighbors from West Virginia and the UK.

The folks from the UK included another permanent deacon and his wife who were celebrating their 50th anniversary. We had a nice long chat, comparing notes on the state of the diaconate in our respective countries.

Pope Benedict was received joyously by the large international crowd. Once again, Diane and I were thrilled by the numbers of enthusiastic young people in attendance. A large group of teens -- probably 50 or more -- from Argentina sat directly in front of us and the hall was filled with similar groups from all over the world. What a blessing for the future of Christ's Church. Pray for these young people. It's hard to strive for holiness in today's world.

Pope Benedict spoke of his recent visit to Lourdes to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady. He also addressed the young people in particular, telling them that he consigned to them "two treasures of Christian faith: the Holy Spirit and the Cross. The Spirit opens human intelligence to horizons larger than itself, and brings it to understand the beauty and the truth of God's love revealed on the Cross." It was a wonderful reflection. The Pope then imparted his blessing on all of us and on our families and blessed the religious articles we had brought with us -- two large bags full!

Wednesday afternoon we had another perfect Roman lunch and then took our tourist bus out to the Basilica of St. Mary Major where we spent a good two hours checking out all the nooks and crannies and marveling at the beauty of this lovely, old church. After spending more money at the basilica's gift shop, we once again climbed aboard our tourist bus and headed for St. Peter's. From there we wandered back to our hotel window shopping along the way.

Thursday was a bit of an adventure, one that included a lot of walking. We left our hotel, crossed over the Tiber via Ponte Margherita and entered Piazza del Popolo. Once there we stopped by the church of Santa Maria del Popolo and enjoyed being amazed by the artwork of the grand masters that decorated the church's side altars. We stayed for Mass, celebrated by the pastor, and then continued our exploration of the Piazza. We briefly considered making the walk up to the Pincio to take in what is described as a remarkable view of Rome, but decided that the walk was more vertical than horizontal and completely unsuited for our tired, old legs. We can look at the pictures in the guide book instead.

After an espresso in a nice, overpriced sidewalk cafe we began the trek to Via Veneto where we hoped to visit the Cappuchin church, Santa Maria della Concezione. We had hoped to visit the church on our last visit in 2005, but simply never had the time, so yesterday we were hopeful..until we arrived and discovered that the church is closed only one day a week, on Thursday! And so the famous crypt will have to wait until our next visit to Rome. To ease our disappointment we walked across the street and had a nice lunch at one of the local restaurants.

After lunch we continued our trek, making our way to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The Pantheon is always surprising, always wonderful, always awesome...and always crowded, just as it was yesterday. I took lots of photos and we walked the few blocks to Piazza Navona where we examined all the bad art for sale and decided that another coffee would be a fine thing. We then searched out a small print shop where we had purchased a print eight years before. We found it easily and were impressed when the proprietor remarked that he remembered us from our earlier visit, so impressed that we purchased another print, this one from the 18th century.

From there we just wandered back across the Tiber over Ponte Sant'Angelo, took lots more photos, and collapsed in our hotel room. It was a tiring, but very enjoyable day.

More soon, but it's time for dinner...

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