musing on rome

I arrived home Sunday night from a trip to Rome. Jet-lag has the same effect on me as post-partum blues. No matter how wonderful the experience, the heavy headedness and physical exhaustion of sleep deprivation leave me drained of energy and excitement.

This was my eleventh trip to the eternal city. While the novelty of the land-marks has worn off, the history and grandeur is still impossible to ignore. The day I arrived, I headed out for a leisurely tour of the city with a dear, American friend. While discussing a possible agenda, he begged `anything but churches and stones`! I chuckled. But I also understood.

I remember the awe I felt the first time I stepped into the grand basilicas of Rome. The size and majesty of St. Peter`s alone still takes my breath away. My Catholic heart beats a bit faster as it takes in the history and significance of this sacred place. This is our spiritual family home. Yes, it`s dysfunctional at times, but still our home.

My Catholic mind also reminds me of the reality of the boom years of Renaissance construction. The grand churches in Rome were built on the backs of the poor, desperately buying their way into heaven with indulgences. How many lives were sacrificed to the hard labor of such grandiose, papal monuments?

The sheer number of churches is mind-boggling. After the excitement of the first few, I find myself making a cursory walk up and down the side aisles and chapels with diminished emotions. The mind begins to wonder, dreaming of the next plate of pasta and bottle of wine.

Majestic fountains, sweeping ruins, and catacombs are found at the turn of every corner. Tacky souvenir stands sell the same trinkets year after year. Street vendors surround you with passionate pleas to buy their scarves, cheap jewelry, or knock-off purses. The distinctive sounds include the sirens of Roman ambulances and speeding motor-bikes and scooters.

Ah, Roma. It will always be more than a city. It is both symbol and a unique presence.