I finally made good on my anti-social threats and spent today on my own. I left the hotel around ten, thinking that would give me plenty of time to make it to St Ignatius’ Rooms at the Gesu in the 10-12 window during which they were open. It was a beautiful, quiet morning and I made it to the church by 10:35.
I found the entry to the Collegium and it was locked, so I went in and asked one of the older priests who was hearing confessions how I could see the rooms. He told me just to go back to that door and call for the porter. I went back and started ringing the bell (and pounding on the door). A few other people with the same objective joined me, and we leaned on all the buzzers for a while.
On this trip I finally got around to reading My Life with the Saints, by James Martin, SJ. I highly recommend the book to everyone. In it he tells a charming, against-all-odds story of being able to visit to the Camere di Sant’Ignazio. My story does not have a similar ending. No one ever answered the door, so I went in to mass. Unlike the church in Novafeltria, Gesu is not an overamplified echo chamber, so I was able to both hear and understand the priests and the readers. The music was nothing to write home about – the organ sounded great, but the organist’s voice was weak and the music was hard to follow (with the exception of a closing Salve Regina which I sang with gusto!) The priest gave a typical Jesuit homily (lots of pace and giustizia).
After mass I took plenty of pictures. There were a few posters I thought of buying for my classroom, but I don’t have any way of getting them back to Boston undamaged. I may be able to enlarge some of my pictures to decorate.
I then set out for St Peter’s around noon. It’s a bit of a walk, but the city seemed to still be waking up and it was fairly quiet. I arrived at Vatican City around 12:40, covered my shoulders and made my way through security. The last time I was at St Peter’s was just two years ago, so I didn’t really need to meander and see everything. I just had a few favorites to visit. I was walking so purposefully that I know I busted into a lot of people’s pictures as I made my way to the Pieta, Blessed John XXIII, and the St Margaret Mary painting.
The noon mass was ending just as I got there, so I listened to the closing song. It’s official: I heard no good church music in Italy. If you go onto youtube you can hear the Pontifical Choir singing at Pope John XXIIIs coronation mass (you can also hear him intoning the mass parts in a horrendous voice – don’t ask me why I know these things). They sound about the same today.
I looked around for the plaque with the names of all the bishop’s who were at Vatican II, only because I asked a question on a quiz this spring about that plaque and I thought it would be nice to come back with a picture of it. I didn’t find it, but I did find a plaque commemorating the rescinding of the mutual excommunications between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Bishop of Rome. Don’t worry, all of you who have been dying to see that: your favorite ecclesiology geek got a picture!
Around the side of the building there are some flowers that I have a picture of in my kitchen. Apparently February is more flower friendly in Vatican City, because those same flowers that I snapped two years ago looked terrible today. Those flowers are on the walk down to the crypt. I always find the bad behavior in the crypt to be more horrifying than in the basilica. I said a little hello to Paul VI, then to John Paul II, which is always a hotspot down there. What I found really interesting was that people were pushing each other down to get to JPIIs grave, but no one was giving St Peter the time of day.
Because it was Sunday the Vatican bookstore was closed, but I found another religious bookstore where I browsed the theology texts for a bit. They also had a children’s section in which I found a set of five Piccolo Francesco puzzles. They had little flying monks in all the pictures who seemed to be St Francis. He was cartoony and adorable, which from a hagiographic perspective I know I should oppose, but man, was it cute. The last of the puzzles was titled “Pace e Bene” and in it Francesco was holding up a sign that read “Peace and Good”.
I did not purchase the puzzles, nor did I purchase an english language copy of Spe Salvi (since I got the last encyclical the last time I was at the Vatican, I thought I would pick up this more recent one). Unfortunately they only had it in Polish, Italian and Spanish. I went into another store to buy a Vatican flag from Room 102. I couldn’t remember the word for flag, so I pointed to a small one and asked if she had one much bigger. She gave me a smile that I am sure she usually reserves for crazy people and got out a big flag. I got a little embarassed and tried to explain I was getting it for my classroom, and she replied with the Italian equivalent of “that’s nice”.
I walked along the river for a bit and realized it was time for lunch…so I bought gelato. I walked all the way to the Ponte Margherita and then went to the Piazza del Popolo and down Via del Corso to check out the shopping situation. By the time I made it back to Termini I had been out about 6 hours, my feet were killing me and my shoulders were a little burned. Despite the exhaustion I was thrilled with my adventure. My roommates (hotelmates? Rome-mates?) are out seeing the ruins now, and we will enjoy a delicious dinner tonight before I leave tomorrow early in the morning.