Sunday, March 19, 2006

From Bones to Chains (March 4th Rome)

The first stop was the Capuchin Crypt in the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione de Cappuccini. A rather macabre collection of the bones of friars arranged in various postures to, well attract tourists and deliver a message read in the last of the five or six rooms, "where you are, we once were, where we are you, you soon will be." After our visit here, we did walk into the Church above. The body of St Felix of Cantalice lies under one of the altars and it didn't strike me at the time, but does now this is the very St. Felix for which St. Felix Friary in Huntington, IN was named after. This Friary is where a very young Albert Groeschel came and received the name Benedict (after Benedict Joseph Labre) and as a novice witnessed the ecstasy of one Venerable Solanus Casey. The Friary was sold some years ago, but the building remains and I often walk its grounds. This past December I was blessed to take Father Groeschel back to the friary of his novice year and to walk the halls and hear fantastic stories of what he witnessed while there. Today I prayed at the tomb of the St. Felix!
We next stepped into the church of Sant'Isidoro for a brief look around. I believe that we also stopped into a store for some snacks as I don't believe anyone had eaten breakfast on this particular morning.
Next we crossed the street to Santa Maria della Vittoriawhere the famous "St. Teresa in ecstasy" (a theme going here with Solanus) by Bernini. This church once housed a miraculous image of the nativity, but it was destroyed by a fire and a replica now replaces the original but enshrined in a "gloria" similar to the enshrinement of the Chair of St. Peter in the Basilica of St. Peter's. I include pictures here of this "replacement image" as well as evidence that Amy, Katie and half of Joseph saw "St. Teresa" (Michael the baby on my back and I were taking the picture).

Next we crossed the street to the Paulist and American Church of Santa Susanna. Amy recognized that pastor as someone she had met as a seminarian many years ago. It was kind of neat being in the American church and seeing everything inside aimed at us but one of the most interesting things inside the Church that I could have easily missed had I not been so nosy was The Cistercian Monastery of Santa Susanna, I purchased an Agnus Dei at their store (Agnus Dei: A sacred wax object blessed with a prayer of exorcism. Wear it in faith to protect yourself from evil). They also had water that the Sister said you could drink (the one working on the day I was there spoke almost no English) and I don't see any reference to it on the web site (I didn't drink it).
Next it was on to the Diocletian Baths and what now is the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. by now the transfer of the baby had taken place.
I think we missed out on some good stuff in this church, but as I learned too late there really isn't a good tour book when it comes to churches. The links that I've provided throughout this commentary would have been invaluable in book form (now there is a thought(and I probably should go back and check the accuracy).
From here on to the Termini to catch the B Train to St. Paul's Outside of the Wall. We had been on this train back on Thursday and it had been packed, today it wasn't that bad, in fact it was very roomy and there were small family bands entertaining and passing the cup which made the trip to St. Paul's very enjoyable. Being preoccupied with preventing pick pockets I didn't take a picture of them which is too bad. At the end when the youngest child was passing the cup he said "gratzie" to everyone who donated until he got to me, he said "thank you." I got this treatment throughout my time in Rome save on one day in St. Peter's square while waiting for Amy and Katie to return from the scavi tour when I was approached by a photographer who came at me speaking rapidly in Italian. When I told him I did not speak, he pointed at my unshaven face (one of the few days that I didn't shave) and he said in English "you look very Italian"...I think by then the sun had also darkened my very white Northern Indiana face a bit.
Arriving at San Paolo fuori le murawe were a little disappointed to find that there appeared to be no place to eat anywhere nearby (it was well past noon by now). The outside courtyard of St. Paul's was very nice and had a tropical feel about it with palm trees centered by a large statue of St. Paul with a sword. There was a Spanish group playing a guitar and singing as processed around the courtyard and then into the Church. Under the entrance was another large statue of St. Paul, again with a sword (and when blogger's picture thing starts working again I'll post a picture of Joseph standing near the statue so you can see how large it was).

There was another Holy Door (sealed off course). What I remember most about the inside of the Church besides how large it was, were the images of the popes (lots and lots that gave the impression that they were running out of room). It took awhile to find Benedict, but not too long because his image was the only one illuminated. Another very memorable site was the large Easter candle holder and its many images. In the Blessed Sacrament chapel we saw the mosaic that Ignatius and his companions first took vows before when the Jesuits were in their infancy. We saw the cloister through the door and visited the gift shop where I inquired about the whereabouts of a Trappist monastery, which after hearing where it was decided that would have to wait for some future trip.
Back to the train station and some moments of disorientation as to what direction we were headed in--but the right train finally came and we were entertained by a different family band and got off at the Coliseum. Here checking the time and realizing that San Clemente (our next stop) was closed for the afternoon siesta we headed in that direction and ate lunch.

Here there was a young child that was both entertained and entertained Michael Jacob and Joseph. There was also a fish tank in the window of the restaurant (we ate outside) that entertained both for a bit when only bread was forthcoming.
This was one of those typical Roman days when the weather seemed to turn abruptly colder for awhile, but thankfully once the food came it seemed to warm up again. Enough time had passed that we made our way up the street to San Clemente. This was another one of those church's that many had told me was a "must see" and I can understand why...this church gave the perfect perspective on what Rome and the history of Christianity is all about. Built on what originally was a pagan Temple Mithras, in San Clemente you can still see it by traveling through the layers of history.
A beggar was begging at the door where St. Servulus once begged and Gregory the Great preached a homily about it:
For I remember that, in my Homilies upon the Gospel, I told how in that porch which is in the way to St. Clement's Church, there lay a certain man called Servulus, whom I doubt not but you also do remember: who, as he was poor in wealth, so rich in merits. This man had long been afflicted with sickness: for from the first time that I knew him, to the very last hour of his life, never can I remember but that he was sick of the palsy, and that |195 so pitifully, that he could not stand, nor sit up in his bed: neither was he ever able to put his hand unto his mouth, or to turn from one side to the other. His mother and brethren did serve and attend him, and what he got in alms, that by their hands he bestowed upon other poor people. Read he could not, yet did he buy the holy scriptures, which very carefully he caused such religious men as he entertained to read unto him: by means whereof, according to his capacity, though, as I said, he knew not a letter of the book, yet did he fully learn the holy scripture. Very careful he was in his sickness always to give God thanks, and day and night to praise his holy name.
When the time was come, in which God determined to reward this his great patience: the pain of his body strook inwardly to his heart, which he feeling, and knowing as his last hour was not far off, called for all such strangers as lodged in his house, desiring them to sing hymns with him, for his last farewell and departure out of this life: and as he was himself singing with them, all on a sudden he cried out aloud, and bad them be silent, saying: "Do ye not hear the great and wonderful music which is in heaven?" and so whiles he lay giving of ear within himself to that divine harmony, his holy soul departed this mortal life: at which time, all that were there present felt a most pleasant and fragrant smell, whereby they perceived how true it was that Servulus said. A monk of mine, who yet liveth, was then present, and with many tears useth to tell us, that the sweetness of that smell never went away, but that they felt it continually until the time of his burial.

I gave Joseph a euro to place in the person's cup. If Joseph learned one thing during all these visits it was the joy of giving alms and of lighting candles while offering a prayer; a subtle lesson but one that probably will live long after his mother and I are gone.
It was here that we met up with a servant of God who had given me a ride from Charleston, SC to Myrtle Beach, SC last Fall where I was giving a talk. Amy is giving several talks in South Carolina next month and had been in touch with Gaurav and we knew that he was coming to Rome towards the end of our trip but never thought we would actually cross our path, but there he was in the courtyard of San Clemente. I went over and faked some Italian accent asking him if he were an American, at which he recognized me and laughed. We then hunted up Amy who was in the gift shop and took some pictures.

I spent time in prayer at the tomb of St. Cyril which is on the older level of the Church and didn't know until right now that St. Ignatius of Antioch was entombed at the main altar. The image of the cross on the apse of the Church is truly a beautiful piece of art that incorporates the image of Jesus as the Vine.
From here it was on to the great search for San Pietro in Vincoli. We walked a great deal, stopped and asked for directions. Came upon the Church of San Martino ai Monti (I think..somehow this is the right location, but it seemed like it was a different church). Going on a bit further we came to a street where looking left we saw Santa Maria Maggiore, much to our horror. We took out the maps again and tried to figure out where we were or more specifically where San Pietro in Vincoli was (there came a point where we were just kind of goofy--I look at the maps now and it all seems so clear but trying to find street names and asking directions sometimes seems of little use when actually in Rome). We headed back in the direction we had just came, followed a sign and then panicked again because we were almost at the Coliseum and still no San Pietro in Vincoli. We headed in another direction, no signs but just a hunch and finally there it was with a fairly good crowd around. I think Mass was going on in a side chapel, so we were still able to go in and look around to see the chains in the reliquary and Michelangelo's Moses.

Once outside of St. Peter in Chains we walked down a descending stairway and to the Metro Station Cavour where we boarded the train back to the Termini, there we caught a bus that we took back as far as Piazza Navona to see the French Church San Luigi dei Francesi where the altar of Saint Matthew is decorated entirely with three very famous Caravaggio paintings--including one that graces the cover of my favorite commentary on Matthew's Gospel by Frederick Dale Bruner. But first since we were in Piazza Navona and there was a church that we hadn't noticed before we stepped into the Church of Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore. Then on to San Luigi dei Francesi which we had been to on Thursday (but it was closed), tonight there was a fairly good crowd, mostly around the Caravaggio section. Someone had to put in an euro in order to keep the images illuminated but there seemed to be no shortage of generous souls present.
Almost as soon as we exited I spotted a taxi, which I hailed and we piled in. He started animatedly speaking to me in broken English something about the feet and an extra charge. Finally I discerned that he want the baby out of the carrier and into Amy's arms and I'm not sure if Joseph had put his feet up on the seat too, but anyway we spent most of the short drive with him reiterating his anxiety over a dirty taxi--I was glad to be let out at St. Peters and not charged extra (no tip for you!).
I'm sure we grabbed something to eat, but I have absolute no memory of it now.
Evening came, the Eighth Day!