Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Sunday of misfires and grace

Today didn't play out as I planned, but it was good nonetheless. Here's how it went.

First, I should explain that yesterday was a down day; Friday night I had a great time over dinner with three priest friends -- all from Cincinnati -- and yet, something I ate kept me up all night. Some of you, who know me, will nod and say, see, eating all that stuff you like is finally catching up with you. And you're right; yet I figured that out some time ago. And I've been cutting back on my beloved fried food, and late-night snacks. I was very good! Yet I was up pretty much all night.

So...Saturday was a day I chose not to do very much, other than rest. And I caught up on my sleep Saturday night.

Sunday -- this morning -- I slept late.

First I thought about Holy Mass. I recalled that Saint Mary Major had a Latin Mass or two; I checked their website, and sure enough, a Latin Mass at 10 am and at 6 pm. Well, since I was relying on buses and subways, I wasn't going to make 10 -- so six pm was it.

Then I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have an honest-to-goodness brunch? Such a thing is not often seen here; and as much as I've enjoyed it here, I do miss our American-style breakfasts. So I let my fingers do the walking (on the Internet), and found several places that offer good, solid brunch, well into the afternoon. I figured out which one was closest, and decided, that was my destination. Then I could wander around until it was time for Holy Mass. Such was my plan.

So I headed out a little after noon (I told you I slept late!) to catch the bus I needed. But as I walked down the avenue, I saw some tape blocking off one side of the street. It was some sort of race:

Well, that's nice! So I walked along, and discovered the bus stop was also "taped off." So where would the bus stop, then?

OK, I walked down a little further, and found a bus stop not impeded by the course of the race. I waited. And waited. And waited. And I wondered: is the bus running? Or, if it's been rerouted, maybe it's rerouted around this stop too? So I decided to walk on, aiming to get to the next stop. In any case, if I was going to wait, I might as well keep moving, right?

That works, except if you stray off the bus route -- which is what I did. Which meant, I was going to be walking awhile, until I hit a bus line or the subway.

So, I walked awhile, crossed the river, and along the way, crossed paths with the race-course. This footrace is a bigger deal than perhaps I realized.

Across the river, I came to a subway station, and took the subway a couple of stops to where I needed to get off. Then I had more walking, which I'd planned on. Down the Via Nazionale, to the Via Milano. After a lot of delays and with some sore feet, I finally arrived at the bakery that -- according to the website, had a traditional American-style brunch. Well, I'd certainly worked up an appetite by now!

So, finding the address, this is what I found on the door:

You don't need me to explain that, do you? The key word was "chiuso" -- closed!

So...I walked back to the Via Nazionale, and found a cafe offering, not American brunch, but Roman pizza!

After enjoying both lunch and a book I'm reading (via iPad), and with death by hunger averted, I walked on. A little bit on, I studied a map posted on a building, and remembered a museum I wanted to check out; and it appeared that it was just a bit over that way, beyond the "Wedding Cake" (i.e., the monument to King Vittorio Emmanuele); OK, so I'll head there!

Remember I mentioned how, when you walk around Rome, you find interesting churches around every corner? Sure enough, as I walked along, I came upon a curious church, sitting way down below the level of the Via Nazionale. Of course, that's what you see in ancient cities, because very old buildings are often on a lower level from the current development. Still, it's striking. The church turned out to be the minor basilica of San Vitale, which was originally built in the year AD 400. Here's a shot of the interior:

What was striking was that the walls are almost entirely painted; what looks like great slabs of stone is the creative use of paint. You can see that a fair number of people were gathered; someone was playing the organ, and it seemed to me Holy Mass was about to begin. Since I had other plans, I moved along.

As I walked down the hill, I caught this sight of the walls of Rome. I'd never noticed this tower before. It's a reminder of less peaceful days when Rome had to defend itself at these walls. You can also see one of the marathon runners walking the last bit of the course.

I make my way down the hill, through the barricades that had been set up for the marathon (which is what the race turned out to be), now being taken down as the last stragglers came down the course, to great applause by those on the sidewalks (me too). Around the monument to King Vittorio, and now I'm looking for the Palazzo Corsini, home of part of the Galleria Nazionale de Arte Antica. I can't find it, but I do find another museum, and duck in to ask. My memory for foreign languages being what it is (terrible), I can't recall exactly the name of the museum I'm looking for; and the helpful young lady is at a loss. So I thank her, and go out, thinking, it's here somewhere, I'll keep looking. About a block away, I find another of the helpful maps, and when I look, I see: I'd misread the map earlier, and the museum I'd wanted wasn't close at all.

So now what do I do? The museum I wanted was out of the question for today. I could go back to the museum I'd just left; except it was past 4, and so I thought: not enough time for a museum, and so maybe I ought to start making my way to Santa Maria Maggiore. So I set off in what was, more or less the right direction -- back to the "Wedding Cake."

There I found a bus stop, and one of the bus lines went by Santa Maria Maggiore. So, I thought: I'll ride the bus over, and have some time to pray before Holy Mass. So I wait for the bus.

And wait. And wait. Lots of buses, but none that any of those of us standing there wanted. I check the time, and it's now 5 pm. How long do I wait?

Not much longer, I decided. I set off walking again, remembering -- I think -- how to get there. Around the Wedding Cake I go, and down the Via Fori Imperiali toward the Colosseum. All of this, by the way, was part of the Marathon's course -- and there were workers taking down all the barricades and signs and booths set up for the race.

When I get past the Colosseum, I wonder -- is this the right way to Saint Mary Major? Or to Saint John Lateran? Another map; and, sure enough, I had gone the wrong way to east. So I circle back more to the northeast, which would take me to Saint Mary Major.

Walking, walking; I'm getting a little weary! And with Roman streets being curvy, I'm not certain of where I'm going. I check the time: it's 5:44 pm! Mass is at 6! I need to get there! No more time for walking; I need a taxi. So I try to wave down a taxi, except that one after another goes by with fares, so they don't stop. Meanwhile, I am thinking: how can I not be at Holy Mass on Sunday? I'm a priest!

Well, a taxi stops, and he is happy to take me to Santa Maria Maggiore, the "bella basilica!" he says. I get there about six minutes before Mass time. And though I'm tired, I motor up the steps, and to the sacristy, to ask if I can concelebrate.

Sure! No problem, the priest who is vesting said. Great! But it's in Italian, he says.

Italian? Not Latin?


I can't concelebrate in Italian (because I don't speak the language). Thank you; but I excuse myself. And I attend Mass at Saint Mary Major. (I thought; by the time I get back to the guest house where I'm staying, it'll be late; do I want to trouble the sisters about offering Mass in the chapel then? I decide not to.)

It was a very nice Mass. I can't say anything about the homily, but the priest seemed to be very energetic in talking about our Lord and the woman he met at the well, and that's good, isn't it? The Mass was well attended; when Mass ended, and as we were leaving, the lights, notably, were all shutting off. Time to go, it said. It was almost seven pm; as a parish priest, I understand!

So I walked back to the metro station (legs getting tired); the metro station was packed, the train was packed; thankfully, when I got off, I didn't have to wait too long for the bus that would take me the rest of the way back.

When I get back, it's been five hours since I ate lunch; I duck into a restaurant near the guesthouse, and have some pasta -- with red sauce, something not as common as you might think! After dinner, I walk back here, my legs and feet feeling like they're made of concrete.

And that's my day. Not what I planned for, but a day full of grace nonetheless. Thank you Lord!


Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Thanks for the travelogue, Father. Sounds like a delightful day even if it wasn't what you planned. I've never been to Rome, but it sounds like a great place for someone who likes walking.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Mary Ann:

Oh yes! Rome is a great place for walking.

Make sure you have the right shoes, because the cobblestones, while quaint, are tortuous. I thought I had pretty good walking shoes, but not for here!

John F. Kennedy said...

Who've thought that you would have to walk a Marathon? Extensive walking is the best way to know a city.

Fr Martin Fox said...


It felt like a full marathon (might -- I've never done one), but not quite!

But, you're right about how walking helps.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Also -- when I get back, we should have a beer!