Monday, March 31, 2008

Rome with Dee Mingey

Dee Mingey, my friend and colleague for nearly twenty years, has spent sixteen Easters in Rome with the Community of Sant' Egidio. This year when she came to Rome I was here too!

On the Monday after Easter we did a little exploring, including visits to a couple of my favorite churches. The Basilica of San Prassede is at the top of my list of old churches in Rome. It was built by St. Pascal I in the early 9th century and honors Saint Pressede, who sheltered persecuted Christians in the 1st Century. Twenty-three of these early believers we discovered and martyred before her eyes. Legend has it that she collected their blood with a sponge and placed this is a well where she herself was buried. The walls of the current church are decorated with frescoes from the 17th century, but the jewel of this basilica is the very small side chapel of Saint Zenone with some of the most beautiful mosaics I have ever seen. (This chapel also contains the pillar where Christ was scourged during his passion.)

Chiesa Dio Padre Misericordioso, the Jubilee Church by Richard Meier, is Number One on my list of modern churches. I think that even a person who does not care much for modern architecture would be inspired by this simple, light-filled church located in a working class neighborhood about 12 km from the center of Rome.

On Wednesday Dee accompanied me to school. I enjoyed having her see me in my new work environment, meeting my students and colleagues.

On Thursday Dee guided me around Trastevere and the parts of Rome that are home to the Community of Sant' Egidio. We spent time in the Church of Sant' Egidio reflecting on the icons and symbols that are important to the life and mission of the community.

Reproductions of this icon with the "Face of Jesus" can be found wherever the Community of Sant' Egidio gathers for prayer around the world

There is a restful garden behind the church that has some banana trees from Mozambique, given in thanksgiving for the community's role in bringing peace that country in the early 1990's, and a 100 year-old olive tree that was planted this year to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the community.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring on the Terrace

Our apartment has three small terraces.
Today was a bright Spring day in Rome
and the flowers were smiling!

This is our "herb garden."

St. Francis watches over the cactus.

The gardner at work!

The orchid in our kitchen came from IKEA four years ago!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Easter Eggs

I did not see any colored hard boiled eggs this Easter. But, there were many chocolate eggs to be found... in supermarkets, tabacchi, candy stores, news stands and bakeries. The most popular Easter Egg in Rome is a large hallow chocolate egg with a toy inside. It is wrapped in "abundant" and colorful  foil or cellophane. 

Here is our dining room table on Easter day. The blue package on the left is a hollow egg that contained a mini-basketball game. The orange package in the foreground contains a "colomba," a special frosted Easter bread in the shape of a dove.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Images from Easter

We are part of an international Catholic community in Rome called Caravita. It gets this name because it meets at the Church of St. Francis Xavier "della Caravita" near the Pantheon. During Holy Week I was an acolyte and reader, and Vincenzo sang in the choir.
Msgr. Don Bolen blessing the new fire
at the start of the Easter Vigil.

The Pascal Candle and baptismal water

On Easter Sunday afternoon we stopped by the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva to look again at the amazing statue of the Resurrected Christ by Michaelangelo.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

When we returned home from the Easter Vigil we found flowers on all of the doors in our apartment building with the message "Christ is Risen!"

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday: Stations of the Cross

These Stations of the Cross by Mimmo Paladino are in the Church of Santo Volto di Gesù in Rome.

I. Jesus is Condemned to Death

II. Jesus Takes Up the Cross

III. Jesus Falls the First Time

IV. Jesus Meets His Mother

V. Simon Helps Jesus

VI. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

VII. Jesus Falls the Second Time

VIII. Jesus Meets the Women

IX. Jesus Falls the Third Time

X. Jesus is Stripped

XI. Jesus Dies on the Cross

XII. Jesus Dies on the Cross

XIII. Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross

XIV. Jesus is Placed in the Tomb

XV. Resurrection

Thursday, March 20, 2008

5th Week of Lent: San Stefano Rotondo

My Lenten Journey takes me to the Church of San Stefano Rotondo on the Celian Hill. It was built in the 5th Century on the former site of military barracks for non-Italian soldiers.
Today the neighborhood still has the feeling of a tranquil seclusion that attracted the composer Palentrina in the 16th Century, according to Georgina Mason in her Companion Guide to Rome.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Upon entering the church, I am awed by the purity of the round plan of the building and the way it is bathed in light. The altar is in the center, and the cross has been covered in purple for Lent. There are many tourists gazing at the patterns created by the antique columns and wooden ceiling. The walls are covered with frescoes depicting very "unmerciful" martyrdom scenes. Charles Dickens had this to say about these frescoes in his Pictures of Italy (1846) :
To single out details from the great dream of Roman Churches, would be the wildest occupation in the world. But St. Stefano Rotondo, a damp, mildewed vault of an old church in the outskirts of Rome, will always struggle uppermost in my mind, by reason of the hideous paintings with which its walls are covered. These represent the martyrdoms of saints and early Christians; and such a panorama of horror and butchery no man could imagine in his sleep, though he were to eat a whole pig raw, for supper. Grey-bearded men being boiled, fried, grilled, crimped, singed, eaten by wild beasts, worried by dogs, buried alive, torn asunder by horses, chopped up small with hatchets: women having their breasts torn with iron pinchers, their tongues cut out, their ears screwed off, their jaws broken.... So insisted on, and laboured at, besides, that every sufferer gives you the same occasion for wonder as poor old Duncan awoke, in Lady Macbeth, when she marvelled at his having so much blood in him.

Once I settled down in a chair, I was able to keep the frescoes in the background and allow the architecture to energize my mind and soul. I imagined Palestrina's music accompanying worship in this space. I became aware that over the centuries pilgrims have come into this space to seek mercy. And here I am. Dear God, help me to be merciful - and be merciful to me!

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New McDonald's in Rome

There was something new this morning at the corner where I change buses  on my way to school. Across the street from the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls there is now a McDonald's. 

Roman McDonald's have a feature usually not found in the American siblings: McCafe. It is a section of the restaurant with a stand up counter serving espresso and cappuccino with the typical pastries found in the traditional Roman coffee bars.

Someday it might be nice to sit on the roof under a market umbrella with a Coke & french fries and watch the pilgrims come and go from the basilica.

Monday, March 17, 2008

March of the Penguins

Yesterday we got a Blockbuster card and watched March of the Penguins. It was in Italian with Italian subtitles. A wonderful film! Here are a couple of pictures I took yesterday of marches or processions. 

This is the Palm Sunday procession at San Filippo Neri, the church across the piazza from our home. Notice there are no palms. Italians have olive branches!

This is a group of bikers near the Pope's summer residence at Castle Gondolfo.