Sunday, Richard and I walked over to the Caravita, the location of the meetings we attended with Catholic Church Reform International, for Sunday Mass. It is a 17th century church run by the Jesuits. It’s title is St Francis Xavier Caravita. Rene and Janet, our contacts with CCRI had told us Mass was at 10. It actually was at 11. After sitting on the steps for awhile and enjoying people watching, Richard noticed a side door open so we went in to the sounds of their choir practicing. This is one of the few churches with an English language Mass on Sunday and Rome. The other one is Santa Susanna which is run by the Paulists. After sitting and listening to the choir for a few minutes, Richard decided he wanted to know a bit more about the music they were using. After a few minutes I looked over to see him singing with them so I went over to see what he was up to. I asked him if he was “choir crashing” and he readily admitted it and the group seemed happy enough to have us. We had to learn almost all of it on the fly but we acquitted ourselves just fine. The accompaniment was an organ which isn’t my cup of tea but the young man playing it. who was Spanish, did a great job. There was only one piece of music we both knew and it was “We Are the Body of Christ”. The rest of the music had a much more traditional feel. This was a fairly “bells and smells” Mass with a lot of incense and a lot more music than what is normally done but we were up for it! As Janet said, it was as far from the “Amy Grant” style Mass in her parish as she wanted to be. The celebrant was a bishop from Saskatoon. He had with him a delegation of other priests and a group of Methodists. He heads a working group that has been in existence since the end of Vatican II working on ecumenical relations with the United Methodists worldwide. They were headed off to Assisi for their annual meeting. One of the group, a Methodist bishop addressed the congregation after Mass and shared his experiences and hopes in working with this group. He also thanked all of us for the welcoming atmosphere. They all took communion at the Mass. Also at this Mass was a bishop from one of the African countries who is attending the Synod and another African bishop who was part of the ecumenical group. The CCRI folks, including me approached the bishop from Saskatoon and spoke with him about the work of CCRI. We invited him to come to lunch with us but he declined since they were on their way to Assisi. He did pose for a picture with us. He seemed to be an OK guy and was quite young. He gave a good homily but a long one. Also at this Mass was the US ambassador to the Vatican, Ken Hackett, and Nigel Baker, the British ambassador to the Vatican, as well as Robert Mickens, former Tablet reporter and now writing for Global Pulse, a new website with occasional contributions to NCR. I recommend you check it out here. Mickens was one of the speakers at the workshop with CCRI. I have had two good conversations with him. We have the same thoughts about Francis and how he is proceeding with the Synod. And from today’s news it does look like Francis is getting the job done. Today was released the relator’s document that will be the framework for the small group discussions that will take place this week. You can and should read it here. First of all, it IS readable and when was the last time something from the Vatican was readable. Second of all, there are things in there that will kind of blow your socks off and in a good way.
After Sunday’s Mass, I went out to lunch with the CCRI folks….Richard went back to the convent as he was working on a report he is writing for Catholic Worker. Fr. Keith Brennan, a Salvatorian priest and a sheep smelley one of the Vatican II variety, picked out the restaurant. He has a good nose for doing so as we had a wonderful lunch. Rene, Janet and Sister Filo, a Japanese nun who works with CCRI, had an interview to do so they left first. Fr Keith and I then had a great time swappping stories. He studied in Rome at the time of Vatican II and had funny stories to tell about a liturgy he and his roommate were in at St Peter’s in which both of them got to laughing so hard they got in trouble. He knows Jim Hogan very well from the Association of Catholic Priests. Fr. Keith is probably in his 70’s but just felt like it was time for him to get involved in reform work and liked what he saw on the CCRI website. I am glad he did. He has good things to bring to the table and articulates them well.
On my walk back to the convent, near Trajan’s forum and the Victor Emmanuel monument right in the center of Rome, outside one of two churches (both dedicated to Mary in some fashion or another) were a group of Franciscans setting up some large sound equipment and I spied drums and guitars. They began singing. This was quite a large group. They were singing what I refer to as Praise and Worship stuff, all upbeat and easy to sing along with them which is what they wanted to achieve. At one point, one of them came out into the crowd and got a line of people dancing around the piazza in front of the church. They were engaged in a wonderful street evangelization. There was a bit of something for everyone, religious or not. The one brother who had started the street dancing then wandered among the crowd and would pray with people. There were actually two of them doing this. The “announcer” for the group was from the US and he would do a simultaneous translation of Italian and English. There was also Eucharistic adoration in the church for those who wanted that as well as a priest hearing confessions The latter two are not necessarily my cup of tea when it comes to the church but they were providing good service for people. Quite a few were taking up the offer to” pray with you” including me as I don’t turn down praying with anyone. The friar that prayed with me had very little English and I have very little Italian so he prayed in Italian saying God listens to it better. The funny part was that he was from Serbia. The group hailed from all points of the globe: US, Ireland, Ghana, Nigeria, India, Mexico, Croatia, Italy and Serbia. Eventually the local bishop showed up and he had good things to say. It certainly seemed to me like a Pope Francis style of evangelization, going out to the peripheries and these guys seemed to be having fun doing so and there was music, not the best done music but done with a lot of contagious enthusiasm. By the way the other church had a wedding going on in it. These were examples of what I see as “big tent Catholicism” and the “universal church on display”, things I think are worth hanging on to and working to preserve and deepen.
Today I headed north for the next part of the adventure, visiting my paternal grandparents’ (mia nonna e nonni) hometowns in Fiumalbo and Pievepelago. These towns are a ways up in the Apennine mountains west of the city of Modena. I am in Modena this evening, a fairly large industrial town. Maserati and Ferrari have big plants here. I will leave by bus tomorrow morning to get to these towns. The train ride up from Rome was by highspeed rail and through lovely countryside, making a transfer in Bolgna. Bologna has a brand new rail station and the signage to find my way around left me in a lurch for a few minutes. I found a young man, who had the largest and darkest blue eyes I have ever seen, sitting at an information kiosk directed me to a machine “upstairs” so I could validate the ticket to Modena. “Upstairs” turned out to be up two floors. We came in underground into this railway station. I luckily know that “uscita” is “exit” in Italian and have enough sense to follow where most of the people are going. I also have a great guardian angel who said “Hey, dummy, there is the green thingey that big blue eyes told you to look for.” Good thing I pay attention to “Hey Dummy”, as my guardian angel always addresses me, or I would still be looking for it. On the way to Modena, it began to rain, probably coming from the storms that have flooded Genoa so badly. Once I got to Modena, I needed to find a hotel so I checked in with a ticket agent who gave me a list and then proceeded to direct me to the wrong bus to get into the city center. I kept noticing the bus going into increasingly industrial neighborhoods. When I was the last person on the bus at the end of the line, I knew that something was wrong. The bus driver, another blue eyed Italian man, who spoke very little English managed to let me know what to do. I was finding that under duress, I was understanding his Italian better. When I got back to the bus platform where I started, I decided the easiest thing to do was to take a taxi. Good thing as taking the bus was going to involve transferring and the streets wonder all over the place. For those of you who do not like roundabouts in Missoula, don’t move to Italy. Modena has many of them. So up into the mountains I go tomorrow. In booking a hotel room on-line at my destinations, I looked at some pictures. It is quite mountainous. Half my DNA came from those mountains. Seems fitting to me that I wound up in Montana.