Saturday, January 26, 2008

24 Hours: A House Blessing, the Zoo and the Pope

HOUSE BLESSING On Thursday evening one of the priests from San Fiippo Neri, the local Catholic Church, came to our building, offering to bless our homes. (A sign had been posted in our lobby on Monday telling us to expect a priest.) We welcomed him and he introduced himself asking if we were Catholic. When he asked if we ever went to Mass at San Filippo I explained that we went to the Jesuit Church of Caravita, near the Pantheon, where Mass is in English. He gave us a folder inviting up to participate in the Lenten programs that are being offered in our neighborhood, and then proceeded with a short liturgy blessing our home. It concluded with sprinkling some holy water I must note that Vincenzo was prepared with an offering to place in the priest's bag before he left.

A TRIP TO THE ZOO On Friday, as part of our science unit on ecology and biomes, I took my 5th grade class to visit the Bioparco, Rome's zoo, in the Villa Borghese. It is a little larger than the Central Park Zoo and has a special focus on animal conservation. Our visit began with a guided presentation about endangered species. (It was in Italian, so my students understood much more than me!) We had a couple of hours to explore the Bioparco and gather information to make reports on many of the animals. The students will fill in details with internet research back at school.

I am reading aloud to my students a book by Katheryn Lasky from her series The Guardians of Ga'Hoole. The novel is about a fantasy world of owls, so these birds were of special interest of my students. They were also captivated by monkeys, bears and large cats.

THE POPE Immediately after school I made my way to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Wall for an ecumenical vesper service at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and marking the 100th anniversary of this week of prayer stated by priests and sisters in Graymoor, New York. The basilica holds several thousand people and when I arrived a line had formed outside that was over 50% priests and nuns. Before entering the church we had to go through a security check with metal detectors. I have been in this Basilica on several occasions, but this is the first time that the central doors have been open and it was exciting to walk through them and see the Swiss Guards. Their colorful uniforms and red-plumed helmets are wonderful! Joining Pope Benedict XVI, who presided at the vespers, was Rev. Samuel Kobia from Kenya, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches. There were also representatives of the Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox and Eastern churches, wearing everything from the flowing black robes and veiled head pieces of the Orthodox priests, to the blue bonnets of the Salvation Army women. In the procession there was a woman with long blond hair wearing a priest's collar among the dozens of cardinals and bishops in their lace with red and purple cassocks. For a complete report on the vesper service you can read Cindy Wooden's article for Catholic News Service.

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