Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Around Rome on Two Wheels

A Roman Holiday:
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck
exploring the city on two wheels.

Motorcycles seem to have always been part of the Roman landscape.
During the past year Rome has been encouraging the use of bicycles.

Rental racks have appeared at many locations in the historical center.

Designated bicycle paths are surrounding the city.
This is a map of the bike paths in our part of Rome.

This is the bike path at the end of our street,
along the Via Cristoforo Colombo.

Motorcycles remain the dominant two-wheeled vehicle in the city.
Some even come with a roof!

I think this seat was built for two.

This cat is enjoying the sun on a motorcycle
in the courtyard of our building.

Monday, March 30, 2009

While visiting Pompeii...

Last week I took my class of fifth graders to climb Mt. Vesuvius, explore Pompeii and visit Herculaneum. During the trip we stayed at a hotel in Selano, about 7 km from Sorento. This was the view from my room, looking at the Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius.

Lunedì Letterario

by Nick Hornby

I had not picked up a book by Nick Hornby for several years. I forgot how much I like his writing style. (I read High Fidelity and About a Boy almost ten years ago.)

The main character is Sam, born to a teenage mother, who becomes himself a teenage father. His girlfriend is Alicia. Their baby is Rufus. Throughout the book Hornby explores the immaturity of these two young people carrying adult responsibilities. I enjoy creative narrative devices in novels and in this book the author has Sam involved in conversations with a poster of a skateboarding champion that hangs on the bedroom wall. There are also times when Sam is transported into the future, giving him a look at what's ahead. When he is back in the present, he gets another go at life, hopefully doing a better job this time.

The New York Times wrote: "Hornby’s novels tend to be about men who are essentially boys. “Slam” is a portrait of a prickly and interesting boy who is forced to become, very quickly, a man."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lenten Journey Week 4: San Giovanni Bosco in via Tuscolana

The Fourth Week of Lent takes us out the Via Tuscolana, the road leading to the Alban Hills, to an neighborhood near the famed Cinecitta, home to Rome's movie industry. We arrive in front of the Salesian church of San Giovanni Bosco. The church sits on a piazza with a view into the city of Rome that seems grander than the Via Concilliazione that leads out of St. Peter's Square. This 20th century parish church is as majestic as any church in Rome, and filled with more things to look at than any baroque church. There is a large dome over the sanctuary and the nave is crowned by an even larger dome. The round dome in the nave is supported by a rectangle defined by Arabic pink square columns.The church is filled with mosaics, reliefs and sculptures. I am sure that they serve as a catechetical encyclopedia of information for the life of St. John Bosco and other aspects of Christian life. I found the stained glass windows to be especially beautiful with earth and water tones.
Here are some of the many images of angels found in this church.

The most recent titular was Stephen Fumio Cardinal Hamao who died November 8, 2007. He was born in 1930 in Tokyo. His home contained Buddhist and Shinto shrines. His mom converted to Catholicism in 1942 andHamao was baptized in 1946. It was interesting to read that Hamao was on the hijacked Japan Airlines Flight 351 as a passenger in 1970. He was the President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

Who was St. John Bosco?
Giovanni Melchior Bosco was born on August 16, 1815 in Piedmonte. His father died when he was two years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, John did so to helps support his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs and carnivals, practice the tricks that he saw magicians perform, and then put on one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, stories are told that he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier that day in church.

John Bosco worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and seminary. He worked constantly with young people, finding places where they could meet, play and pray, teaching catechism to orphans and apprentices. He founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Chistians, and Saint Francis de Sales. He died on January 31, 1888, in Turin.

Heavenly Father,
you see how your children hunger for food,
and fellowship, and faith.
Help us to meet one another's needs of body, mind and spirit,
in the love of Christ our Saviour.
Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent
A New Zealand Prayer Book

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

5th Grade tudents Climb Mt. Vesuvius

To see pictures of my students climbing Mt. Vesuvius click here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lenten Journey Week 3: San Pietro in Vincoli

The third week of my Lenten Journey has taken me to the ancient Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli. It was one of Rome's first parish churches, built over the ruins of an imperial villa in the middle of the 5th century to house the chains that had bound St. Peter in prison in Jerusalem.

The nave has 22 columns. Tradition claims that they were taken from the basilica where St. Peter was condemned. (It is interesting that they have Doric capitals, which is rare in Roman churches.)
The chains of Peter are venerated before the main altar. The crypt behind this shrine is said to contain the relics of the Maccabee brothers, seven Jewish heros who died in war to protect the Mosaic Law during the 2nd century BC. The relics were placed here in the middle of the 6th century.

The most famous work of art in this basilica
is the statue of  Moses by Michelangelo.

This is the coat of arms for Pio Cardinal Laghi who was the titular cardinal for this church until his death on January 10, 2009. He was born in Castalignone, Italy, in 1922 and had served as the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education for Seminaries and Institutes of Sudies. In the 1980's he had been appointed the Apostolic Delegate and the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States.

God of infinate mercy,
grant that we who know your pity
may rejoice in your forgiveness
and gladly forgive others
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Collect for the 3rd Sunday in Lent
A New Zealand Prayer Book

I sat in a pew in the side aisle opposite Michelangelo's sculpture. I read the first verse of Psalm 15, appointed for this week, and gazed at the statue of Moses. 
Lord, who may be a guest in your house:
or who may dwell on your holy mountain.
This statue, so full of energy, is of a man who spent time in the presence of God on the holy mountain. 
Psalm 103 states:
You showed your ways to Moses,
your deeds to the children of Israel.

It is interesting to watch the scores of visitors to this Basilica. A few walk down the several steps to view the chains of Peter, but most just go over to the Moses statue. There is a box for depositing coins to turn on the lights for the statue. You put in 1€ and you get two minutes of illumination. Many people leave after their two minutes. Some stay for a few minutes more. How can you experience the power of this sculpture in two or four minutes? 

I need to nurture and enhance the times I spend in the presence of God. I need to be careful not to fall into the trap of visiting sacred spaces and looking at works of art and beauty for two or four minutes at a time. I need to take time and be still -- and know that God is God! 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lenten Journey Week 2: San Felice da Cantalice

This week my Lenten Journey took me to the Church of San Felica da Cantalice in the neighborhood of Centocelle which is 11 stops on the train along the Via Casilina, the ancient Roman road that leads from the Porta Maggiore toward Naples. The parish is staffed by the OFM Franciscans.

I found a building built in 1935 that looks like a warehouse. It is next to a playground and the piazza in front of the church is currently taken over by the construction of a new subway line.

It seems that a front porch was added to the structure in the 1960's.
This week's prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book begins with the words "God of the unexpected..." and it was an unexpected surprise that I discovered inside this church.
When I walked through the graffiti splattered front door a dramatic rectangular interior with an apse presented itself. Tiled columns separate the nave from the side aisles and the flat ceiling rests above a row of small windows that let in interesting patters of light. Above the sanctuary there is a skylight within a concrete half-drum.
San Felice da Cantalice was established as a titular church by Pope Paul VI in 1969 for Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan of South Korea, who served as the archbishop of Seoul for 33 years, retiring in 1998. Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan died in February of this year at the age 86.

Who was San Felice?
San Felice (St. Felix) was a Capuchin friar, born at Cantalice, on the north-western border of Lazio. He died in Rome in 1587. He is sometimes represented in art as holding the Infant Jesus, because of a vision he once had, when the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and placed the Divine Child in his arms.
Detail of Sanctuary fresco painted in 1968 by Friar Ugolino da Belluno.

Felice was a shepherd as a young person and then a farm laborer. A friend read to him the lives of the Desert Fathers, inspiring him to seek the Franciscan way of life. Because of his poor health he was appointed to work as a questor for the community in Rome, begging for alms. Felice's special work while in Rome was with children. He would gather them together in bands and, forming a circle, teach them to sing canticles that he composed. These canticles became popular and frequently, when on his rounds to ask for alms, Felice would be invited into the houses of his benefactors and asked to sing. He was canonized in 1712. 

God of the unexpected,
when we come to our senses like the prodigal son,
give us grace to repent and turn to you again,
for where else can we go?
Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent
A New Zealand Prayer Book

I need to be open to the unexpected!
In the 1st reading of the liturgy for the Second Sunday of Lent, God asked of Abraham the unexpected test for him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. When the Angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from actually killing his son, there was the unexpected ram caught in the bushes. I imagine that the gospel reading of Transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah before the apostles was unexpected.

Abraham obeyed. His descendants became as numerous as the stars in the sky. Peter, James and John left the mount of Transfiguration pondering the meaning of the resurrection of the dead. I left the Church of San Felice da Cantalice with a renewed sense of looking for the unexpected.

La Festa della Donna

Today is la Festa della Donna (Women's Day) in Italy, commemorating the tragedy of the New York City fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fatory in March, 1908. In that fire 148 women garment workers were killed. (Some stories say that the owner of the sewing factory locked the striking women workers inside and set fire to the building.)
In Rome it is a tradition to give women a gift of mimosa flowers on this day, a first sign of spring.