Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rome: The Return

Sunday morning, I woke up in Rome. That is one of the best feelings in the world, because there is no place like Rome. I dressed, grabbed a roll for breakfast, and walked to the metro with Ian, Matt, and Caroline. It was around seven in the morning. I was wearing Emily Rolla's red dress because we were to attend Sunday Mass at the Vatican, and my dresses were all too casual.

When we arrived at our metro exit and approached St. Peter's Square on foot, my excitement levels soared: the city was so beautiful and grand, and there is something about breathing morning air that causes a feeling of exhilaration. When I saw the great pillars which encircle the square, I couldn't help myself: I broke into a run and sprinted there, leaving the other three behind. Ian told me later that I flew by a strolling cardinal, who seeing my excitement, smiled at me and laughed a little.

Sunday Morning at St. Peter's Basilica

Ah, St. Peter's square in the morning light, in the fresh morning air! The grand facade facing eastward, in the direct light of the rising sun. I couldn't take my eyes off it. We first went into the basilica and looked around a bit, then joined the queue to climb the cupola. The ascent was fun- some of the boys started out running, but that didn't last long. Even walking at a steady pace fatigued us a little. But we finally reached the top, and beheld the square, with its encircling pillars resembling embracing arms, or an old-fashioned key-hole.

After our descent, I had just enough time then to go to confession before Mass. The priest gave me a relic of JPII afterwards, which is now one of my most treasured possessions. The Mass itself was wonderful, of course. I saw bustling old Fr. Peter Paul, the music director of St. Peter's. I first met him two years ago, when my university choir sang for a St. Peter's Mass. There were many priests celebrating with the cardinals, including our own Fathers Brad, Andej, and Joseph. As the holy men processed, Matt pointed out the cardinal who had smiled at me. He was a pleasant-looking old man with white hair, and he did not look distinctly Italian. I wonder who he is.

After Mass, we shopped around the religious shops for a couple hours. Then Caroline, Emily Rolla, and I decided to check out a huge flea market we had heard about, which was in another area of the city. While down in the metro, however, we received unwanted attention from some unsavory characters. By the time we reached the Blue line, it was apparent that we were being followed, so we abandoned our endeavor entirely and got back on the Red line toward our hotel. The rest of the evening was uneventful. We all had dinner at our hotel, where they served three courses, and the first was pasta. This was the beginning of a ten-day pasta marathon, the slight effects of which I now see in my waist.

About eight-thirty, everyone went down the street to a nearby church for a holy hour. I left my room late, and when I reached the lobby, everyone had already gone. Then I made the foolish decision to go alone, and ended up walking down the wrong street and getting lost. I didn't have my cellphone, and trying to find my way back to the hotel at night was beyond my (non-existent) navigational skills. I then realized that none of my friends knew that I had gone and began to feel panicky. Just then, I ran into a group of Frannies going to an Irish pub, and one of them escorted me back to the hotel. I was so relieved to see familiar faces and hear English! I sat down with Brian and Ashley, who I hadn't seen all day, and we spent some time swapping stories about our first day in Rome before going to bed.

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