Life in Rome challenges one to find the right balance between being a student, a tourist, and a pilgrim priest. It's possible, for instance, to remain in the library all day and never go out and see the magnificent monuments, churches, museums, etc., that exist here in Rome. On the other hand, it's also quite possible to know every good restaurant in town while never sitting at one's desk to study and memorize language conjugations.But yesterday, as both a cultural event and a diversion from studies, I joined my Latin/Greek classmates and professor to tour the Capuchin Basilica of the Immaculate Conception near Piazza Barberini - about a 12 minute walk from the house. The church dates to the 1600s and the cornerstone was blessed by Pope Urban VIII. The friars built a crypt, decorated with the skulls and bones of the deceased friars as well as laity. It is, for sure, a very strange sight. But like most things in life - it all depends on perspective. And so, for tourists who form long lines waiting to get in each day, they see a very strange, perverse, and odd, crypt which probably only adds to their cynicism toward the Church and the Faith.But for us Christians, it is a meditation upon death, upon the finality of this life here on earth, and the importance of meditating upon the life to come. It is meant to inspire fellow Christians to live well their lives now, so that they may have eternal life. A sign reads, "What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be." True.
But yes, I didn't linger and was glad to climb the steps out of the crypt and back into the sunlight outside!