All Roads Lead to Rome

I first must apologize for not blogging over the last few days. I find that by the end of the day I’m so worn out I can’t really dedicate that much time to writing, but no worries, here is another post at last.

The last few days have been more low key than previously, probably because everything is finally catching up to us. It also might be because we’re dreading our upcoming 18 hour travel time back to the U.S. on Monday morning. Our flight from Rome to Zurich leaves around 6 a.m., then a 9 hour layover in Zurich before our 8 hour flight back to Boston. The other thing was that originally we had to check out of the apartment at 10 a.m. on Sunday but, thanks be to God, the guy we’re renting the apartment from is letting us stay till midnight on Sunday before heading to the airport via a car service. So that won’t be too bad.

I think I blogged about Thursday, so I’ll move on to Friday. Friday was a good day. It was the feast of the Annunciation, so it felt a bit more festive than usual, although that could have just been me). In the afternoon I went to do a little shopping with Mike and Vinny, since Andrew had gone to Assisi for the day. This wasn’t your normal shopping experience, either. We started at a smaller ecclesiastical shop that had gorgeous vestments in the windows (and antique chalices, monstrances, ciboria, etc.).

I’ve been meaning to buy a surplice, since I didn’t actually own one but only borrowed them from others. The one I picked was “economy line” which looked decent. Upon further inspection it wasn’t very high quality and looked like it would fall apart after a few uses, so I bit the bullet and upgraded slightly when I went back this morning. I also managed to get an absolute deal on another item I had been thinking about. A capello romano or “saturno” so named because it resembles the planet saturn with its rings. Yes, I got a hat. And it’s a nice hat, made of felt. I did not bite for the fiocchi (tassels), but I might get them at a later time.

Next stop was St. Peter’s Square to get our bearing, and then on the Euro Clero, an establishment recommended to me by a priest acquaintance from England. He said that they have some of the most reasonable prices on just about everything and they have some pretty cool stuff. I wasn’t disappointed. I stopped in and picked up something for a certain illustrious Vicar-General and a certain holy priest in Springfield. Once they’re given, I’ll be sure to let you know what the items were.

I really wanted to go to Gamarelli’s and get some of their famous socks but, alas, that was apparently not to be. I meant to go this morning but it never ended up happening and I’m pretty sure they closed in the early afternoon. So I’ll just have to wait until my next visit to Rome to go and visit them. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be in the market for an expensive and posh cassock together with a watered silk fascia with pom-poms…

Saturday was another pretty laid back day. I went back to the store I bought my surplice from to exchange it for a better one, they were very accommodating and gave me a significant discount because, let’s be honest, the first one probably shouldn’t have been on the shelves. I only wish I had a few thousand euro to blow in that store. They had cases upon cases of antique ecclesiastical goods, and anyone who knows a seminarian knows how magpie-like we are when it comes to shiny church goods. The vestments in their cases were also really stunning and it was good to see a strong revival, in most of the shops I went to, of the traditional Roman form of chasuble (complete with maniple). Anyway, enough about vestments.

A Roman style chasuble from the Vatican Museums

I got back and we spent the early afternoon lounging around. The front room of the apartment faces the street and gets a lot of sun so it’s a great place to relax. There’s also a very fine, large tapestry on one wall and a balcony (one of two on the entire building) that is great to stand on for the views. We were kicking around ideas on what to do when I figured I would go back to St. Paul outside the Walls for Vespers. This church is truly one of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite. It’s a close contender with St. John Lateran, but I think St. Paul’s wins out. It’s quieter, further away from things, and in the middle of a big park. St. John Lateran took my breathe away, quite literally, I had to sit down in a side chapel for a bit. But St. Paul’s has a noble simplicity that leaves you quiet and calm, not to mention there are no chairs or pews in the nave so it feels even bigger a space than St. John’s with all its ugly modern chairs all the way down the church.

I got there a few minutes before the service started and walked up and down the church once. As I got back to the front a burly and ill-tempered guard of some type tried to shove me out of the church with the rest of the tourists who were gawking at the funny men in black robes processing into the church while snapping pictures. He eventually realized I was there for the service and let me by. Annoyingly enough this little detour meant I didn’t get the relevant service book, but I was able to use a weekday book for some of the non-variable parts of the service. I think my favorite part (beside chanting the antiphons in Latin with the Benedictine monks) was when everyone joined in singing the Our Father in Latin. The organist (a younger monk) accompanied the chant with the large freestanding organ, the only time he didn’t play along was for the Our Father. Everyone there sang it, and it seemed, knew it by heart. The huge space made the waves of sound echo on and on. So, as you can probably guess, that was my favorite part of that visit.

We went for dinner at our favorite restaurant, which is very conveniently found next to our favorite gelato place. We wined and dined for a while and made a grand end to our stay in Rome. While we’re hear for another day, tomorrow will be busy with packing and getting ready to head back to the States so tonight was a night to be together and enjoy each others company. I really can’t tell you how glad I am I came here with the people I did, it’s really made the trip worthwhile.

Who knows what the rest of the day will bring, but I’ll be sure to post before we start our epic journey back to Boston on Monday. Prayers are welcome, as always.

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