I apologize for going dark for the last few days, but our time in Rome was jam-packed with little free time. Add to this the wretched Wi-Fi at our hotel, and it made posts very difficult to compose and upload.
Our last day in Rome began EARLY with breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and then a quick walk to St. Peter’s where we had a small chapel reserved in the crypt for Mass. We had to start early because the cut off time for groups having Mass in the crypt of other altars is 9:00 a.m. After getting “shussed” only once during our liturgy, we made our way to the main part of the Basilica for a short tour.
Nothing can convey the enormity and the grandiosity of this space, all built over the burial site of St. Peter, a simple fisherman, who responded to the Lord’s call, “Follow me.” St. Peter, a man who would deny his Lord, and yet be charged with feeding his sheep; a man who could stick his foot in his mouth one minute and the next confess that Jesus was “the Christ, the son of the living God.” What I took most from my time in St. Peter’s was the understanding that Peter’s greatness derives from his humanness and his weakness. Despite his limitations and his mistakes, he kept picking himself back up and doing his best to serve his Lord.
After our tour of the Basilica, we had the remainder of the afternoon free. I opted to visit Piazza Navona and visit the Chiesa San Luigi, (the Church of St. Louis of France).
San Luigi is the home to three magnificent paintings by Caravaggio, The Call of St. Matthew, The Inspiration of St. Matthew and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew. Unfortunately, I was not the only one who wanted to visit San Luigi this afternoon. The small chapel where the paintings are displayed was quite crowded, but I managed to get a good view of the paintings. The Calling of St. Matthew is a particular favorite of Pope Francis, and Nancy Murzyn used this image as the basis for her retreat conference on one of our Advent Prayer Days in 2013. The painting does take your breath away when you gaze at and marvel at Caravaggio’s mastery of light and color. Suddenly, the whole chapel goes dark. Turns out that you have to pay for the lights to go on — a common practice in a lot of churches with great works of art. As soon as the lights went out, some woman turns, looks at me and points to the coin box. (Why she could not have put her 1 or 2 Euro coin in was a mystery to me. Actually it wasn’t much of a mystery; the lady was a cheapskate and didn’t want to lose her spot by the altar rail.) Being the generous person that I am, I popped a 2 Euro coin in and continued to gaze in wonder; a small price to be amazed and inspired.
I left San Luigi, and made my way to the Tiber on this glorious March day. I
passed the Castel Sant’ Angelo, with its large state of the St. Michael on the top. Formerly, the mausoleum of Hadrian, the Castel was once the tallest building in Rome. It also served as a fortress and refuge for the popes, who could access via a special tunnel.
As I walked up one of the countless hills to our hotel in Rome (I was convinced that someone kept adding extra city blocks to the hill every time I walked back up it), I ran into two our fellow pilgrims, Kris Joseph and Barbara Vernes. We stopped for a moment at a small shop to look at some colorful scarves when a voice said, “Keeping the local economy going?” I turned and saw Fr. Tom Czek, of our California province. (We had seen Tom earlier that day at St. Peter’s when he was also there to say Mass for his pilgrimage group. It seems that on all of my three visits to Rome, I have run into someone I guess that all roads do lead to Rome.