a summer trip to rome

Piazza Novona, Rome. Only mad-dogs, Englishmen, and ignorant tourists brave the mid-day sun in summer!

Greetings to all the kind souls who follow this blog! I apologize for my absence, but I just came back from a whirlwind trip to Rome. The purpose of the trip was to give a presentation to the Society of Mary General Chapter in Rome. The timing coincided with a week of holiday. I scrambled to complete the presentations before our vacation, but had to finish the work at the lake. As a firm believer in holy leisure, this did not make me a happy camper! (I really need to work on my organizational skills, and fight those procrastination demons.) But the work was done, and I left for Rome last Thursday, and arrived home on Monday.

I received a warm welcome and gracious hospitality from our Marianist brothers, as always. I wrote about the experience on our International Organization of Marianist Lay Communities blog and was able to upload the power point presentation to YouTube. Pictures are always worth a thousand words. 🙂

Mass with the Sant’ Egidio community at Santa Maria in Trastevere

Rome continues to nudge me to ponder and contemplate both her beauty and her shadow side. I tried to put words to the jumble of thoughts on the National Catholic Reporter blog: Rome has plenty of beauty, but plenty of contrast too.

July and August are sacred months here in Canada. Our summers are short, and we try to squeeze as much sun and fun as we can. I will continue to update this blog as news and inspiration strikes. But, if holy leisure comes calling….please understand!

The Trevi Fountain. The water looked SO refreshing in the Roman heat!

roman style

There`s no denying that Romans have style. Women, men, young and old have an air of confidence in their appearance. Their clothing choices lean towards black; a fashion tip that I embraced many years ago. Black is easy to mix and match. It moves gracefully from casual to dress-up. And, it is impervious to the ever-present street grime of this ancient city. (Travel tip – leave your white pants at home!)

I am in awe of Italian women. They navigate cobble-stone streets in stiletto heels and maneuver motor-cycles and scooters through the crazy maze of narrow streets that is Rome. And, they are gorgeous. Not in the American, blonde Barbie kind of way. Few have perky little button noses. Having been blessed rather generously in the proboscis department, I`m heartened to see women who are not only comfortable in their natural looks, but who allow their beauty to glow. Three cheers for the Roman nose!

Style is apparently important in ecclesiastical circles, also. Window shopping in the vicinity of St. Peter`s provides an interesting diversity of wares. Souvenir shops filled with plastic Pietàs and glow in the dark rosaries share street space with high-end clerical fashion stores. There seems to be a market for these duds. Young priests and seminarians decked out in cassocks and impeccably tailored black suits abound. Hollywood casting directors wouldn`t have to look far for Bing Crosby or Spencer Tracey look-a-likes.

Also spotted were young women in full religious habits. These were no shrinking violets of humility. They, too, had an air of confidence. Their veiled heads held high and long skirts swooshed with their brisk steps. It made me wonder about the upcoming generation of religious sisters and priests. I also wondered where the high-end nun shops were. 😉

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.