Rome is Where the Heart is

As promised earlier, I am back at our little cafe on the corner to check in and post about my last adventure.  It’s been an exciting two days, so exciting that I needed a day off today.  Well, part of the day off anyway.

Yesterday was by far one of the best days here (crazy how each day seems to be getting better and better).  In the morning we went and visited Uncle Ben at the papal audience, which was really quite impressive.  We got there about two hours early, and we definitely profited from doing so as there were tens of thousands of people there by the time the papal audience actually started around 10:30.  We were about 10-15 rows back from the front, and Pope Benedict was up on a stage-like thing they usually hold their outdoor masses on.  He entered from the side in the popemobile and drove through the aisles of the square while cheesy organ music played on an electronic “toaster”.  It sounded like 8-bit videogame music (although I don’t think any videogame ever had a fantasia and fugue), and with him driving around in aisles it felt a bit like Pac-man.

The audience was about an hour and a half long and by the end we were all a bit sunburned, especially one of our group.  It included the daily Gospel reading in about 7 languages, a homily (in Italian, unfortunately), and then acknowledging those groups of pilgrims there (including a Lutheran church from the US!) and the pope would read a greeting to those speakers in their language.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran

After the papal audience we took the metro across the city to the Basilica of St. John Lateran.  This, along with St. Paul outside the Walls, is my favorite church I’ve visited in Rome.  At one point I actually had to sit down in a side chapel because of how awestruck I felt.  This was truly a house of God.  The relics of Sts. Peter and Paul are housed in a huge marble ciborium magnum over the high altar, their huge gilt figures stare down at you, St. Peter with his keys and St. Paul with his sword.

I spent about an hour and a half here, I couldn’t get enough, and if I am ever so blessed to come back, I will spend even more time here in the holy space.  I would have lit some candles here, but they only had these very tacky electric candles, so I instead made my offering via the conveniently located “OFFERING” boxes.  Because words are failing me to describe the place, allow me to post a few of the best pictures from this church.

So there’s a small offering of the photos I took, there are more on Facebook for you to peruse.  Afterward I wanted to go to the Sancta Scala and the Sanctum Sanctorum as they are across the street but the church was closed.  The Sancta Scala are the steps from Pontius Pilate’s Praetorium that Christ walked up to be judged and condemned to death, brought to Rome by St. Helen the mother of St. Constantine the Great.  I will try and get there before I leave.

I took the metro to Santa Maria Maggiore and was once again blown away.  This visit brought me to the fourth patriarchal basilica of the Bishop of Rome, and the home of two very important Christian relics, that of the icon of the Mother of God “Salus Populi Romani” and a piece of the crib from Bethlehem that Our Lord was placed in.

The Icon of the Mother of God “Salus Populi Romani”, famously reputed to have been painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist using the very wooden table of the Holy Family in Nazareth.

The chapel containing a piece of the crib of our Lord from Bethlehem

I also arranged for a Requiem Mass be said here for someone I recently learned had passed away, it is always a sad thing to do, yet joyous knowing that pray is being offered up for someone.

Santa Maria Maggiore was an exceptional church, but I had to make my way to the Pontifical Gregorian University for a tour by a priest who we meet through a mutual friend.  The views from the roof are second only to those of the Presidential palace, which is right behind the university on the Quirinal Hill (one of the 7 hills of Rome).  It was dusk so I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of the view, though.

Afterward myself, Vinny, Mike, and Dan went out to dinner at an excellent restaurant right next to our favorite gelato place.  Truly delicious food at a delicious price.

The dome of the Gesù

Today, as I said, I slept in as I was exhausted after yesterday.  The rest of the group went off in the morning for a full day of sight-seeing, but I went and walked around a bit, hung out in St. Peter’s Square, and enjoyed watching traffic go by from our usual cafe.  Later on I went to the Gesu, the “mother ship” of the Jesuit Order and enjoyed the flamboyant baroque art of that church.

And that brings me to right now, sitting at the corner in our favorite cafe.  Tomorrow will bring liturgy for the feast of the Annunciation at St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church, and then an afternoon with a bit of shopping (Gamarelli here I come) and a visit to a few more churches, I think.  Prayers are welcome.  Salve!

Chapel of the Madonna della Strada, a much venerated 15th century image of the Mother of God.

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