The Corner

Rome, Ever Ancient Ever New — Now, Complete with Pope-arazzi

Rome  Some things are noticeably different. La Stampa everywhere!

I’ve spent some blessed time in Rome over the past years and have my favorite haunts. Some of them currently obscured a bit by tents and scaffolding, cameras and equipment.

Last night a deluge fell that seemed almost Biblical. The Communion Antiphon just minutes before at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica was “The Lord anointed my eyes: I went, I washed, I saw and I believed.”

This morning as the sun rose over the same, I wondered who was seeing and believing.

As I mentioned, some things are indeed noticeably different. I hear “signora” from security much more often, if I’ve lingered in prayer a little too long, as was the case over the tomb of St. Paul (I’m hoping, however, prayer isn’t a suspicious activity).

But some things are very much the same. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a constant at St. Peter’s. People might think of St. Peter’s Square as much of the media here today does — as a news platform, for the art and history, but there is no forgetting here it is very much a church. And the Sunday before the papal conclave was no exception. As always, priests were available in multiple languages for confession. In English and Polish and Magyar and French and Italian and Portuguese, for a start. Look closer and you’ll find the times for a whole host of additional language opportunities. Those were just the ones I passed by on the way to and from the English priest.

And so, too, this morning. At 7 a.m. when the Basilica opens, it tends to be very much the pilgrim’s church, a place of prayer. The first hours at St. Peter’s on a given weekday morning are of prayer. Priests are celebrating the Mass in all languages on the side altars. As it happened, I ran into two friends headed over to celebrate Mass at the Altar of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  

By the time Mass was over, the sun was breaking through a window of the St. Joseph chapel nearby.

The sun seemed to be both a reminder to those within that there is a world out there to engage, and that the world is asking for that engagement. Then, of course, how could one surrounded by prayer, perhaps in prayer, not thirst for the light of God’s grace illuminating the darkness in our hearts, pleading, in gratitude at altars around the church?

It seemed like a reminder that the kingdom of heaven and of earth are intertwined, that our lives here are meant to bring us toward something much more, bringing others along the way.  

At our little Mass this morning, we explicitly prayed for the cardinals who will convene in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow. And we begged forgiveness for the sacrileges against Christ’s Sacred Heart, believing our sins are exactly that, praying for his blessed mercy to heal the pain of our unfaithfulness.

It was a reminder that, long after the media has left and every utterance of the pope — new or old — is no longer met with a frenzy, the work of the Church continues, in churches, whether the smallest or most ornate,  throughout the world. 


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