Fr. Greg Haake, CSC arrived by overnight train from Paris on Thursday morning. He is currently working on his M.A. in French Literature and was able to sneak away for a Roman holiday due to the fact that he has completed his thesis already this early in the semester and his French school is on strike. Oh gracious God in heaven, please, perhaps Roman schools could go on strike, perhaps?
After pranzo here at the Casa on Thursday we made our way to the Pantheon to take in the fresh arrival of sunny skies - something missing from Rome for months.
On Friday we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in-house and then made our way to the North American College (NAC) where a conference on Spiritual Fatherhood was being given. The keynote address this Friday was by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap, Preacher to the Papal Household. It was an insightful talk focusing on kerygma and catechesis which are both necessary for the birth of faith and its cultivation. Just as St. Paul cried out the faith and by his strength and teaching helped bring faith to maturity, so too the priest is called to do.
There we met Fr. Steve Titus, a newly ordained priest for the Diocese of Cheyenne, WY and who is currently finishing his licentiate in dogma at the Gregoriana. Steve, like Greg and I, is a member of Notre Dame's class of '99 - a very good year for the Church and priestly/religious vocations. We headed down to the Vatican to see an exhibit marking the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Vatican City State - an agreement signed in 1929 between Pope Pius XI and the Dux, Mussolini. The exhibit was quite interesting, showing which lands comprise the Vatican State and which lands are extra-territorial throughout Rome and the Italian countryside. The pope's car was on exhibit, featuring the papal tiara and keys doorknobs.
We made our way back to the Casa for pranzo and rest before taking the metro to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. There were very few tourists/pilgrims and the afternoon Roman light shined into the interior nicely. A nice grace about this particular church is that there are often present confessors who speak English in a number of confessionals. It made for a good start to the weekend proper.
We both knew it was a Friday in Lent, but as the reading of the day mentioned, there is time to fast after the bridegroom departs. So, we enjoyed a nice bowl of non-carne pasta at the ristorante Taverno Romano.
Saturday was quite full. We departed the Casa at 6:30AM to make our way to the Stational Liturgy at St. Agostino Church near Piazza Navona. The presider was the bishop of Brisbane, Australia. Fr. Carl Ebey, CSC and Bro. John Paige, CSC are dedicated pilgrims to the Stational Masses during Lent. After Mass the four of us prayed at the tomb of St. Monica whose body was transferred from Ostia to this church named after her son, Augustine. We then enjoyed coffee together and caught up on congregational happenings.
Greg and I then took the bus over to St. Peter's so as to arrive by 8:15 or so when there are very few pilgrims and the security line is short and fast. Such a beautiful place. After touring the church proper we walked through the grotto of papal tombs and stopped to pray at both the tomb of John Paul II and St. Peter.
After pronzo we walked up the Corso to Piazza del Popolo and took in the sunshine and crowds. It has been awfully dark, cold and rainy here in Rome for months and these past few days have seen only blue skies and bright sunshine. We then went to Santa Maria del Popolo Church where there are housed two paintings by Caravaggio - the Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of St. Peter.
It was a great visit and good to see my brother in community and to talk about the joys and challenges of graduate studies oversees. I also am grateful for an excuse to get out and see the city. We did stop by the French church of San Luigi dei Francesi near the Piazza Navona and I received my first French language lesson from Fr. Haake. I did okay translating one paragraph - so maybe there is hope for me this summer when I am scheduled to dive into the French language. Mama mia!