The title says it all, and I’d rather just leave you with pictures than describe what was more and experience than a story. Honestly I’m sorry I didn’t take more- I had to force myself to pull out my phone for your sake, I was too busy simply looking.
Amy and I left Scotland late at night and had a 6-hour layover in Dublin before flying to Rome. We didn’t sleep to well in the airport, so we entered Rome very early and very sleep deprived.
As we rode the bus out of the airport, we passed St. John Latern Basilica, one of the four major Churches in Rome- it was so close to our last stop that we spontaneously decided to visit. If you’ve ever been to Italy you know that there are no straight streets, so it took us longer than it should have to find it- but we finally did.
The Holy Steps, the stairs tradition holds as the steps up to Pilate’s house that Jesus would have walked during his trial, are stationed directly across from the Basilica. Pilgrims traditionally climb these stairs on their knees. Earlier last year I was privileged to visit the Holy Land and saw the place in Jerusalem where these steps were supposed to be. I remember being there and laughing at the irony of me being in Jerusalem and the stairs not being there, so it was pretty cool for me to be seeing “the other half” and completing that experience.
That first day was a total change for me. After having spent 4 or 5 days with families and trying to see as much of the countries as we could, I was suddenly back in a college dorm with friends and school meals. And Seminarians. We were staying at the St. Thomas University Rome campus, and there were also a number of SJV seminarians studying there as well. If you’ve read my previous posts you know I had a fantastic time everywhere else, but being among people my age was so refreshing and relaxing! The atmosphere was very exciting: tomorrow was Christmas eve and the Seminarians had very recently been chosen to serve at the vigil mass with the Pope, so we were all looking forward to that.
By the time Amy and I got back from St. John Latern, it was dinner time. We walked through the streets that night, in a beautiful state of emptiness or pleasant crowds as most everything was closed in anticipation of Christmas coming.
Then we went to bed for the first time in about 48 hours. What a day. The next morning we woke up well rested and went grocery shopping: those of us who weren’t serving at mass had to get in line to get into the Church very early. 6 1/2 hours early, which included lunch and dinner, so we were packing a picnic. That morning the guys had rehearsal at the St. Peter’s, so it was also cool to hear about all the roles they’d been assigned. Grocery shopping and dressing for mass was about all we had time for, and we took off for St. Peter’s Square.
Rome is pretty dirty, and not a quaint place to look at. But the history, the sculptures, structures, squares, etc., strike a good deal of awe into you as you walk through. It really puts you in your place in history when you think about how many of these things were built in the Roman era or thereabouts. Many of the statues and buildings are older than America has been a country. It’s incredible.
The hours spent in line were fairly uneventful and spent with good friends, scattered with a few conversations with other English speakers or Americans. Finally the doors were opened and we got through. We were almost at the front of the line, so we were able to sit within the first 5 rows. Win.
I cannot describe anything else to you- I find myself once more unable to describe what the eyes are capable of seeing. As we walked in, people were pushing and running to get into the Church and I was just walking with my eyes on the ceilings like “dude it’s my first time here I’ll punch you if you push me now let me look.” Once we all found seats together and the Church had filled with people, I got up and walked around to look at what I could. The Church is massive. and Beautiful. and the pictures don’t do it justice so… just go. But here’s some photos to motivate you.
We walked home joyously because it was now Christmas! stopped at a tiny little shop and bought beer and a cake. Don’t ask me why, it just sounded good. Then we all went home and, exhausted, went to bed.
The next morning was Christmas and we returned to St. Peter’s square to do a bit of caroling. As we stood in a circle singing, many more people joined us until is was a large group of people from who knows how many different places all singing Christmas songs. Bucket-list-check.
Later that night, a couple of the guys cooked a big turkey dinner for everyone. Some students had family visiting, so it was like Ireland’s dinner all over again with about 40 people all sitting around a huge table feasting and celebrating.
I saw very little in Rome: St. John Latern, the Trevi Fountain, and St. Peter’s was about all. But I was only there for 2 days and it was for the Celebration of Christmas with family- so I count it as a great trip. Someday I’ll go back I know, but it was a fabulous time.
I grew up with all these guys- so it really was like being with family. How we all ended up in Rome in December of 2015 for Christmas is a crazy reality none of would have ever planned, which makes it all the more awesome.