Note: October 4, 2015….I actually wrote this for yesterday but when I was ready to post it, my hostess had shut off the internet for the night. I will post a blog with current content later tonight.
I have decided that you know you have had a good day in Rome by how dirty your socks are. I wear white socks and mind were filthy today.
My first task was to see if I could get the ticket for the pope’s Mass for the opening of the Synod tomorrow in St. Peter’s. Mission accomplished. First thing this morning, part by bus and part hoofing it,I made my way to the North American Pontifical College, that bastion of American Celibate Male Exceptionalism, from whom I had requested a ticket. I was supposed to pick it up on Friday when I got here between 2 and 4 p.m. Between my mind misplacing a day….I thought I got into Rome on Thursday…and then the taxi “game” in front of Termini, I missed it but I am not sure I would have made it anyway. So, as I expected, the place was locked up tight. I tried both numbers listed by the door using the conveniently placed telephone to do so. I got recordings. Then I noticed a buzzer. I thought to myself “What the heck. Let’s give it a try”. To my surprise I heard the locks being released and the door opened. A Father What-a-Waste type looked down at me….the door was up some steps and I was standing on the last one below the door…and he asked in his best ontologically superior voice “May I help you?” I am not swayed by ontologically superior and I DO know how to play the helpless, little, old lady when I think it will be in my favor. “Father” was a sucker for the act and invited me in when I explained how he, indeed, could help me. The place looks like somebody’s former villa, complete with lovely garden in the center of the building. The padre was not willing to have me come too far into the building….I may be old and grey but I am still a woman!! He made sure to escort me all the way out the door with a definite snick of the locks hitting the tumblers as soon as my self made it out the door.
My next stop was to visit the church of St Louis of France. This church houses the Caravaggio painting of The Calling of St Matthew. It is a very large painting and dramatically done. I read that Caravaggio portrayed Jesus in clothing that is contemporary for his time and clothed the other figures in clothing contemporary for the time in which he painted it. In it you see Jesus very definitely pointing at Matthew, arm fully extended. Matthew is sitting hunched over his coins. The figures around Matthew are looking at Jesus but pointing at Matthew as if to say “You really want this reprobate to come follow you?” Pope Francis has said this painting resonates with him so much. He says that as he discerned his vocation to the priesthood, he often felt like Jesus surely did not want him and that he sometimes did not want to leave all that he had to follow his call. Later in life when he saw this painting he recognized himself in that hunched over Matthew who was guarding his coins, his “life as it was”, who did not want to let go of that. He thought to himself, “That is me. I am like Matthew in this painting”. I had seen this painting last year in Rome but felt drawn to go see it once again. The church was not initially open. I had some time to spend cruising around the area before it opened so did the “tourist thing” of going to the Piazza Navonna. I like the many fountains there, but not the atmosphere. When I finally got to the Church to see the painting it was still a few minutes before they were due to open. I was one of the first ones there but a crowd of people of people began to gather shortly after. However, I was the first one into the door. I knew where it was so made my way directly there. The crowd was directly behind me. There are no lights on the painting unless you put a coin into a special light switch. I think this is done to protect its integrity. No flash cameras are allowed either. The crowd stood there trying to see it but it was so dark. I was standing right next to the coin-operated switch box that had “Luce”, light in Italian, with a large arrow down to the coin slot boldly written in red. I soon realized if I wanted to see this painting, I would need to put the 1 euro…you could get cheaper rates but for shorter duration….into the slot. Their was a collective sigh of awe from the crowd that had toddled after me. This seemed a metaphor moment for me. We shed light for each other. It really doesn’t cost us much to do so. If we are the ones who have experienced something then we are the ones who need to ante up to shed the light. And we all have experienced something in life to provide light to others. Sometimes we are all like Matthew….we just don’t want to let loose of a coin to move to a new life, to shed light for others.
After seeing the Caravaggio painting, I knew it was getting time to hustle on over to the Vatican for the vigil service being held in Vatican Square for the opening of the Synod. I had gone to this last year and found it a profound experience of the Body of Christ. When I got there, the crowds were already lined up a block deep to go through the metal detectors once the gates opened. I was able, though, once in the square to get a good seat right in the middle section directly back from the stage where the pope comes out to speak. I was back about half a football field length. My digital camera could just barely make it on full zoom to get a clear shot of the stage. The atmosphere created by the music and readings was much better than last year. Sometimes the music made me feel like I was at a rock concert!! Very upbeat and vibrant for a change. The Vatican can do dirge music quite well but does it far too often. People knew the songs so I asked an English speaking Italian sister next to me if this was music used liturgically in the churches in Italy. It was the Italian versions of the kinds of music we have all known and loved in our parishes, upbeat, vibrant and with a positive message. There were various “interventions”, Vatican speak for these kinds of events where people come to the microphone and tell their stories. The stories as well as I could discern with my limited Italian were all in relation to family situations. The interventions would then be followed by music. The pope is not present from the start of these events. You can begin to feel the anticipation in the crowd as his time to come out to speak approaches. When he does appear….and it almost feels like an apparition from as far back as I was…he just kind of walks up onto the stage. No fanfare, just now you don’t see him and now here is this white presence up there. Once he began this huge crowd became absolutely still. I could have heard a pin drop. He speaks very softly at first. That draws people into his words in a big way. I could make out some of what he was saying as he was very distinct. I couldn’t pick up enough, though, to give you a synopsis of his words. When I find the Vatican’s translation, I will include a link. The crowd again lit candles. I did not have one for the first half. At one point, I felt the young man next to me touch my arm and hand me one that he had picked up off the empty chair in front of him. He then lit it from his. He had the most delighted smile on his face helping me to light my candle. Yes, indeed, it does not cost us much to provide “Luce” for someone else….and it makes you happy inside to do so.