Yesterday the internet connection at our usual cafe wasn’t working, hence the silence, but today it is back up so I’ll be able to post! Huzzah.
Yesterday was a bit of a down day as we were pretty tired after the first 3 days, so we slept in and decided to split up and go do our own thing. I needed to make a trip to the bank so Vinny and I walked down there and then split up. I wet back to the basilica of St. Ambrose as it’s a nice place of refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. I lit some candles, said my prayers, and explored a bit more. There was a side altar I hadn’t noticed before, that of St. Olav, King of Norway! So I went and spent a little time there as I have I fondness for St. Olav.
After that I walked up to the park above the piazza del populo, the Villa Borghese, which had breathtaking views of the city. I had my lunch (a panino named after “Angelina Jolie” and a fanta) and enjoyed the view. They also had a cool water clock that was built and installed in 1840-something. Later on I walked back to the apartment and sat around outside waiting for our fourth member to join us, Michael, who was flying out from Holy Cross yesterday.
In the evening we all went out to the basilica of St. Lawrence outside the Walls in which not only St. Lawrence is buried, but St. Stephen the First Martyr and St. Justin Martyr. It was an obviously ancient church, and we were there about an hour before it closed so we were the only people there beside those in a small side chapel who were preparing to attend the daily evening Mass there.
It was pretty dark so I wasn’t able to get too many really great photos, however once I fiddle with them in iPhoto and made them black & white they turned out great. I know I’ve been saying it a lot, but it was an amazing experience to venerate the relics of St. Lawrence, St. Stephen the First Martyr, and St. Justin Martyr. The crypt underneath the high altar is surrounded by an iron grill (reminiscent of the grate St. Lawrence was roasted on) and it was only after close inspection that I realized there was a small (just big enough to get your head through) iron window that opened up, so I opened it as it wasn’t locked and was able to venerate their relics. It was also then that I was able to commemorate everyone at the parish of St. Stephen, for which I am their seminarian and organist. It was a truly humbling and wonderful experience.
Also in this basilica is the tomb of Pope Pius IX, a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, and let me tell you, his tomb was exceedingly impressive. It was a little disappointing, in that I was hoping St. Lawrence, St. Stephen, and St. Justin might get a little more impressive a tomb since they’re major saints of the Christian Church as a whole, but there you go.
We left just as the Kyrie was starting at the Mass in the Blessed Sacrament chapel of the basilica, I would have liked to have stayed but we were on a schedule. We squeezed into the 3 bus (I have never been packed so closely with complete strangers) and went to Santa Croce, they were having Mass so we stuck in the back, I lit a few candles at one of the side altars, and then we headed to San Giovanni in Laterano but it closed before we got there.
Dinner was had at Rosso Pomodoro, a restaurant recommended by Dan and it was exceedingly good. Best food I’ve had in Rome so far, and it’s been all really quite good. After that we went to our favorite gelato place (I had Nutella, Mars Bar, and Frutti de Bosco on Sunday night, and then raspberry, strawberry, and tiramisu last night) and took a walk back to the apartment.
Today was insane! We got up early and headed over to the Vatican Museum. Let me tell you, it is an unbelievable feeling going and seeing pieces of art that I’ve only seen in books and heard about. I watched that great movie The Agony and the Extasy with Rex Harrison (Pope Julius II) and Charlton Heston (Michaelangelo) about a month ago and it was so great seeing the actual chapel.
We walked through the entire collection three times, in a somewhat misguided attempt to enter St. Peter’s through the museum, which is apparently only allowed for groups. So we ended up exiting and grabbing lunch after which we headed back to the apartment.
So there are many more photos I have posted to my Facebook account, so make sure to check them out! As for the rest of the day we rested and went to a cafe for drinks and a spot of dinner. Should be an exciting day tomorrow, we’re going to the weekly papal audience with Uncle Ben (Pope Benedict XVI) and we’re hoping for some good seats. Afterward we’re going to be going to St. John Lateran Basilica, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Lucia in Trastavere, and a myriad of other churches. As always, your prayers are very much appreciated. God bless! Salve!