Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leaving for Holy Land Tomorrow

I made a point of going to the station church this morning. Santa Cecilia - patron of musicians. What a treat! Until this morning, we had not heard any of the pipe organs in the station churchs. We arrived this morning at 6:30am to find the sisters for whom the St. Cecilia's is their convent church chanting morning prayer, accompanied by the organ. I managed to get a seat right next to the organist. In most of the smaller churches, the organs are not in lofts. They are along the side of the nave right where the people of the assembly are sitting. Now doesn't that make sense. The organ is in the best place possible to encourage the people to sing better.

St. Cecilia Church. We approach the church through gated courtyard which allows us to arrive at the front doors without the noise and activity of the street. This church is built on the site of Cecilia's home. She was married to a Roman pagan named Valerian whom she converted after their marriage. Valerian then convereted his brothers. They attracted attention to themselves when they began burying the bodies of the christians who had been put to death. They themselves were martyred and last, Cecilia who was ordered drowned in the baths of her home. That failed, so she was ordered beheaded. After the legal limit of blows, she was still alive. She was left to die. In the three days she lived after suffering the wounds. It is reported that she died with three fingers of her right hand extended to show the Trinity, and the index finger of her left hand pointing to show the oneness of God. Recent excavations under the church have uncovered the remains of a pre-christian home with large private baths. At her death, shw asked Pope Urban I the turn her home into a permanent place of worship. In the late 4th Century, a church was built here to her memory. LIke many other churches in Rome, additions, renovations, and modernization have altered the appearances of the church. But the outline of this church remains much the same as it was in the 4th Century with later stylistic differences added.
The sisters were seated around the sanctuary praying the office as the community was arriving.
The nave of St. Cecilia's Church

The classic medeival mosaic with Christ at the center. Also pictured are Sts. Cecilia and Agatha, and Sts Velerian and Paschal. Pope Urban is shown holding the first basilica and presenting it to Christ. The traditional 12 lambs line the base as well as the image of phenix, a symbol of resurrection.
I recently met a 33yo man who is friends with one of our priests on the sabbatical program, Fr. Tom Merrill, ofm. Ludwig is a former swiss guard at the Vatican who remained in Rome after his service. I first met him at the lobby of the porter's station at the NAC. All the Swiss are multilingual. French and German are the local languages, and of course most speak English. Ludwig and I had a great conversation in French. He has been attending the morning Masses at the station churches. He and Fr. Tom were were chatting on the front loggia of the church when I came outside. They invited me to join them for breakfast. Its a beautiful day today. The sun was starting to shine over the buildings and it seemed like it was going to be a great spring day. he curch is located in the Trastevere area of the city. It is a great place with many little shops, many ancient buildings which have been convereted to elegant residences. It really is one of the more interesting quarters of Rome. We stopped to have a "cornetto" Italian for "croissant" and a coffee. A great start to an otherwise busy day.

Our day's classes started at 10:45 with the last sessions with Fr. Attard. Today we covered topics in Medical ethics. Again my notes are quite techinical and I need some time to unravel them. So rather than give too little, (and I have much to do today to prepare for departure to Israel tomorrow) I am going to leave it that it was a fascinating class with much to think about.

After pranzo, I am in my room getting things ready to leave. I am bloggin obviously. But I also have to prepare copies of many documents to carry with me to the Holy Land. The Israelis are quite a bit more thorough in their screening of travellers in and out of Israel than the Italians are at their borders. So I need receipts of all my incoming flights, and my out going flights over the next few months. They want to be guaranteed that I have the neccessary flights to leave Europe when I'm supposed to. I also have to get my cash supply prepared.

Also on the list is packing, preparing for my Italian class tonight, and prepare a homily for Mass for our group at 7:15 tomorrow morning before we leave.

So it is now 4:25pm. I am travelling with my laptop, but I am not sure when I will be able to post on the blog. I am only certain of interent connections on the first night at Tel Aviv, and the last 4 nights at the Notre Dame Center. So if it seems like I have vanished for a few days, have no fear. I'll be back.

Shalom, everyone.