Wednesday, May 19, 2010
When in Rome...
I didn't like Rome. O.K., I know it's the Eternal City and the seat of the Church but I found it to be irritating.It was June of 2003 and I got a sunburn walking in the shade on the streets.The motorcyclists didn't care who was crossing the roads;they aimed for pedestrians.It's noisy and not very clean.BUT,
As we walked to the convent where we were to spend several nights, I passed an old, gray stone wall with a pipe that gushed water into a stone basin.This aqueduct came from the Italian mountains and was put there before Christ and the water is cold and simply delicious.This pipe has been bringing water to this street for over 2000 years.I was impressed.
And then there is this:the community of Sant'Egidio,a group founded in 1968 by a 19 year old, Andrea Riccardi, who decided to put the gospel into practice.And they have since,this group of ordinary people who feed and befriend the poor,teach school children and just go into the neglected places in Rome to do whatever needs to be done.
They meet once a week in the incredibly beautiful Church of Saint Mary in Travestere and we joined in their prayers and praise one beautiful evening.There are now groups of these people doing their work in more than 30 countries.We never hear of them,but it warms me to think of what they do and how they started;inspired by a 19 year old.
St.Peter's Basilica has to be seen to be believed but that is not what touched me,it's size and beauty.It was on the two occasions that I went down below the church to the dark ancient tomb of St.Peter.I knelt down on a hard wooden bench.There was a line to kneel so I couldn't stop for long.I knelt next to a stranger, a middle aged man in a brown jacket and slacks who had his face in his hands ,weeping.I prayed for him in support of whatever he was feeling.Then I left.
Before we departed Rome ,I again went to the tomb and knelt next to a different man who was unabashedly crying.I had trouble believing it.Again ?What were they thinking? Why were they so moved? I will never know but I wonder if it doesn't have to do with betrayal;perhaps theirs and the saint's.Or maybe they were given hope by this stumbling and cowardly disciple who yet gained salvation.
It is only in the writing that I see the hidden wonders of Rome.I can only imagine what else I might have missed as I focused on the heat and the rude drivers.