Sister Frances Teresa has sent two pilgrims’ posts together, so I’m passing them on together. Will.
The view from my room, looking into the Pamphili Gardens. The green in the foreground is where the parakeets seem to hang out. There are very few birds, though lots of grey and black European crows and the racketty parakeets and seagulls – home from home!
On 16 September, we had the great St Peter’s day. This always involves an early start as they like to have the Masses finished before they open the doors to pilgrims and worse. So we had Mass scheduled for the tomb of John XXIII though until it happens, you never know if it will happen. But this year it did. So as soon as everyone had been through security and walked through their second holy door in two days, we all made our way to the tomb of John XXIII for Mass at 8.00. The pilgrims were very adroit at seizing a seat on the two benches as soon as one became free.
We saw Murray vested in red making his way from the far off sacristy preceded by a minute server who can’t have been more than ten and who had Murray firmly under control! We had a lovely Mass and a beautiful homily from Murray about the incarnation and how it is happening all the time in us, ending with a poem from Simeon the New Theologian, who died in 1022 about how the reality of the incarnation is such that when I look at my hand, I am looking at Christ’s hand and that this is truth not fantasy which has the power to transform the way we see ourselves.
After Mass there was a break because tour style visits can’t start until 9.00. They are trying to make this central church available to all and still keep it as a place of prayer even though thousands pass through every day. No small task.
Andre gave his usual excellent presentation. We hire headphones so he speaks into a small microphone; there were dozens of groups in dozens of languages, all on a slightly different wave lengths so we don’t hear each other. Very clever.
Almost as soon as we had entered St Peter’s, the rain poured down in gallons, but by the time we came out, it had stopped, good timing going on somewhere! After Mass, Murray appeared ina smart white T Shirt with the year of Mercy logo on. He said he had got soaked and dripped all over the marble floor of the sacristy and had to buy a new shirt! The sisters who run the sacristy all came to his rescue and toook his shirt to dry during Mass.
The pilgrims had time on their own in the basilica and then pranzo out on their ownIt was a free afternoon, i did some translation for CTC about the earthquake in Italy, some of the Poor Clares have had massive damage and are in dire financial straits as they have not yet paid for the repairs from the previous earthquake. I also spent some time reading up about Margaret of Cortona as we are going to her shrine instead of the Capuchin place at Le Celle where the parking has become so difficult.
Love to one and all, ft.
Then back into the bus to Tra Noi for Pranzo. As usual we asked the bus driver to return past the Gianicolum where the view of the whole of Rome is so spectacular. However he did not want to for some reason so he said he did not know the way. This is the equivalent of a London taxi driver not knowing where Buckingham Palace is! It did not get him very far since Andre said firmly that it did not matter because he knew the way well. Anyhow we went and the view was as spectacular as one could wish but the driver got his own back by saying he was not allowed to stop and let us off; this is possibly true but has never been a problem before! Anyway we drove around and this little confrontation was lost on the pilgrims fortunately. But as we had this driver for the next three days, it did not bode well. In fact after pranzo when the bus came to take us to St John Lateran, there was a different driver and a general air of pouring oil around!
St John Lateran was as impressive as ever, and much more enjoyable now we don’t try to have Mass there! So we had a peaceful historical visit but before that was the door! Prior to leaving Tra Noi we had a short ritual based on going through a holy door, with a scripture reading and a short reflection, then when we got there, we gathered outside the door and said three short prayers and then, in silence, walked through the door. The huge doorway of St John Lateran was decorated with flowers (artificial I am sorry to say but very colourful) with the inevitable armed guard discreetly nearby. But as I walked through the door, I was overwhelmed, to my total surprise, by a sense of doing something momentous and important and full of grace. So you never know! Then we took them round the interior, as big as one and a half football pitches, and saw the tomb of Innocent III as well as Leo XIII.
Door at S Peter’s by Dnalor_01 (Wikimedia Commons) (CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Door at S John’s by Peytonlow – (CC BY-SA 3.0)