Sunday morning. After Morning Prayer at the Casa O’Toole, three of us (Fr. Dennis Yesalonia SJ, Fr. Frank Latzko, and I) headed out for the Oratory of San Francesco Saverio (Del Caravita) for Sunday mass. It was going to be a different experience from the North American College. For one, it was not frequented by seminarians and clergy. And if there were any, they didn’t dress in clerical garb. And when we were there, many of the liturgical roles were covered by women, and a Jesuit priest presided and preached. Easily, it was an experience of liturgy more like that in any ordinary parish. And it was a welcome change.
We walked down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in the direction of the Pantheon. We stopped at a basilica along the way, Sant’Andrea della Valle, under the care of the Theatines, the Congregation of Clerks Regular of the Divine Providence (CR) founded by St. Cajetan in 1524. The church is an example of high baroque, very ornate. We came in between masses, so the place was mostly empty except for a few people walking about and taking pictures.
The martyrdom of St. Andrew the Apostle, behind the main altar.
A view of the dome.
Toward the back of the basilica.
Mass at the Caravita was a refreshing experience. The readings and the preaching were done very well. The music was contemporary, also very well done. The cantor was exceptional. And they used a lot of incense, which was not bad, considering the space lent itself to excess (baroque) but tasteful and dignified in its simplicity. After mass, we met the pastor, Fr. Gerry Blaszczak SJ, who gave the blessing of St. Blase, from whom his family takes their name. Who would have thunk? We also joined the community for some refreshments before heading down to a good meal ourselves.
Fr. Dennis Yesalonia SJ, me (I was wondering why my camera was acting up displaying “busy” and not taking the shot … then it did), Fr. Frank Latzko, Fr. Gerry Blaszczak SJ.
After pranzo at the Taverna del Seminario (on the Via del Seminario, nothing to do with a seminary or anything like it; and sorry, no photos of what we ate. I was too hungry to bother), we made our way back to the Pantheon, also known by its Christian name: the Basilica della Sancta Maria ad Martyres.
The Pantheon was a temple to “all the gods,” and is an architectural marvel. Built in 126 AD, it has since been renovated and repurposed through the centuries. Among those buried there are the painter Raphael Sanzio da Urbino, and two kings of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I. It is still a Catholic church in active use, despite the sometimes irreverent pedestrian traffic.
Fr. Frank Latzko and Fr. Dennis Yesalonia SJ at the fountain in the Piazza della Rotonda in front of the basilica.
Down the street from the Pantheon we passed the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, under the care of the Dominicans. Unfortunately it was not open. Church hours on Sunday are structured around mass times. It was probably after 2 PM by then.
Returning to the Via del Plebiscitto, we passed the Chiesa del Gesu, the principal church in the care of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). It was also closed to the public by then.
We emerged at the Piazza Venezia and before us stood the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, popularly known as the birthday cake or the wedding cake. We went behind it up a very steep staircase to the Piazza del Campidoglio designed entirely by Michelangelo.
In the Piazza del Campidoglio is a bronze replica of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. Wikipedia says it depicts the Emperor Constantine. Don’t know exactly how that works. The original statue is in the Palazzo dei Conservatori nearby. We made our way to the nearby Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the highest point of the Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio). This church, in the care of the Franciscans, is the home of the relics of St. Helena and an olivewood statue of the baby Jesus (Santo Bambino), which Wikipedia indicates was stolen in 1994 and never recovered. What is there now is a copy of the original.
Main Altar: Regina Coeli, Laetare, Alleluia! (Queen of Heaven, rejoice, Alleluia!)
Madonna and child fresco on a pillar in the body of the church.
It had been a long day. We stopped for coffee and hot chocolate at a cafe around the back of the basilica (toward the monument to Victor Emanuele II) before heading down the stairs and back to the Casa O’Toole. While there, we saw the Roman Forum over the wall.
And as we traced our way back to the college, it became even more apparent to me. This city is indeed filled with lots of things to see, historical, ecclesial, architectural, artistic. It is such a privilege and a joy to be here. I know I can never live in a city such as Rome. That is why coming to visit is such a blessing. I imagine the people who live here and see these treasures everyday are probably not always consciously aware of that singular privilege … as much as I am often unaware of mine in the Shenandoah Valley. How can we be? It would be like being overjoyed and enthused all the time. That would be exhausting! It takes being away for a time to appreciate our ordinary blessings. So when we return home, we are more awake to beauty and mystery, even when we don’t know how to talk about it. Because sometimes, talking about it can sound a little cheesy … you try it, and you tell me.