After what felt like an endless day in airports, airplanes and their very hard seats and then a train ride into town, I have made it to Rome! The “red eye” from JFK to Rome last night seemed interminable. Then there was trying to hail a cab in front of Termini train station in Rome where the train from the airport disgorged me and about a thousand other lost souls. Believe it or not, one just does not “hail” the cab. The Italians have this all worked out. You get into a line to hail that cab. The line was long. The cabs circle around the square outside Termini 3 deep and then stop 3 deep at the beginning of the line. There are then what I could only describe as “sheep herders” who shoo you out to a cab. It began to feel after a while like somebody’s idea of a very malevolent game. I can just see a computer game version of this. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I was tired and trying to maintain good custody of my baggage. The cab ride to my destination was interesting in early rush hour traffic to say the least. My husband had a theory about Italian drivers after living with an Italian woman, me, that the only thing they need is a brake and a horn. This cab driver proved him right. Sometimes that application of the brake was at just the last moment with us right behind the car ahead by a hair’s width. A lot of my discomfort in getting here has been soothed by the fact that my hostess has a very lovely place located about a mile and a half from the Vatican in a typical working class Roman neighborhood. I think this will be a great place to stay.
Rome is an incredible place to be. It is a busy, busy city but you get a sense of just hard-working folks trying to do their best in that modern hectic pace. They are friendly and helpful. I went to a local grocer this evening to pick up stuff to make a lunch to carry with me when I start trekking around the city. Much more cost-effective or to put not to fine a point on it, cheaper. One purchase was apples. As is typical in our grocery stores, there were bulk supplies to pick from and place in a plastic bag. When I got to the check-out the clerk asked “How weigh?” meaning how much did they weigh. I finally figured out that I had missed a step. You must weigh them and then the scales prints out the bar code. He was gracious in running back to the produce section to do this for me and those in line were patient with the process. I made sure I extended “Grazie mille” to all around. I wondered if I would have experienced the same in a busy US supermarket??
I discovered in conversation with my host over a simple dinner that I lost a day??!!??? I thought I had left on Wednesday and got into Rome on Thursday. My hostess picked up on the fact that I was lost in time. I knew that on Friday I had to make it over to the North American Pontifical College tourist office to pick up my ticket to the pope’s Mass for the opening of the Synod in St. Peter’s Basilica this Sunday between 2 and 4 p.m. Well, I blew that one as it is already Friday. I will see if I can manage to contact someone tomorrow and sweet talk them into issuing the ticket. Failing in that, I would have to get to St. Peter’s very early Sunday morning to see if I can get one at the door. I really don’t want to miss Papa Francesco dealing with the Gospel reading on divorce.
As I made my way here yesterday, I thought a lot about Pope Francis’ consistent theme of going out to the peripheries. That not only applies to the Church and to our outreach to those who are on the very fringes of our society, it applies to our own selves and our spirituality. For me, traveling does that. Living in Montana, one doesn’t readily leave home during any of the beautiful seasons that we have, to travel 6000 miles to a big city like Rome and I am no exception. It was a pull at my heartstrings as I headed out at 3:45 a.m. yesterday morning in my truck down a very lonely feeling Highway 93 to get to the airport. The endurance it takes at my age truly pushes the envelope for me, gets me out to the periphery of my own life and in my own soul to see what is there. I truly resonated with Jesus’ “Come and see” as I made my way here yesterday. The venture to engage in semi-serious writing is another periphery for me. The benefit for me is the challenge to new vistas. You can’t see those vistas unless you move away from your own protective walls. Tomorrow begins for me in the upcoming three weeks, a period of hearing in the background the crumbling of walls. But to do that you have to put our trust in Someone else and not your own ego. Pray for me.