martes, 28 de abril de 2015
Carmel ... in the city. My friend Roxanne remembers her visit to Rome
For me, going anywhere new is always tinged with the excitement of an adventure and the unknown. No amount of preparation could prepare me for the wonders of Rome, with a phenomenal historical and heritage art, which, together with the bustling, energy of a modern city caters for all tastes in those, who come to sample the delights of this extraordinary place.
So much is on a grand scale, the Vatican, the Coliseum, Bernini’s beautiful and thought provoking angels decorating the two sides of the Ponte Sant’Angelo, each bearing a reminder of one aspect of the crucifixion, the Piazza Venezia, with the distinctive Victor Emmanuel II monument in white marble built as a tribute to Italy’s first king of a unified Italy...
Fr. Eduardo was a tireless, sublimely informative and solicitous guide, ever ready to explain the provenance (bronze statues in the Diocletian museum), quirkiness of exhibits (the room of marvels and the magic wand used to depict Jesus’ miracles on paleo-Christian sarcophagi in the Vatican Museums), the personalities (emperors who inhabited the Palatine hill), the Roman engrossment in entertainment on the grand scale (excavated tunnels, built for the exotic animals, gladiators... leading to the Coliseum). So much of the detail would have been missed without Fr. Eduardo’s expert and sympathetic eye.
Without prior planning, it is easy to find delights on every corner as one flits from one beautiful church to another, for example, the exquisite tree of life mosaic in San Clemente, the exquisitely sculpted marble friezes in Santa Agnese in Agone, the steep, daunting steps in the Cathedral of St. John Lateran, as well as many, varied ‘Madonnelle’, statues of Our Lady, decorating old street corners.
I was treated to a tour of the library at the Teresianum, where Fr. Eduardo gives lectures, to I am sure some very privileged students, which houses amongst other things, in addition to all Carmelite books printed, the entire output of Catholic writing, doctoral theses, bound editions of the process for canonisation of the saints and priceless, old manuscripts. In fact, I got to hold a manuscript edition of Lope de Vega’s work.
And a Wednesday audience with Pope Francis! Arriving, shortly after the opening of the St. Peter’s Square, I was amazed by the festival, party atmosphere and the sheer volume of people advancing peacefully and joyfully towards the square, some with banners, and some in distinctive dress; people from all corners of the globe. Around me were Americans, Germans, a group from Alsace and some local Italians. The excitement rose as Pope Francis was spotted on the screens and people rushed to the barriers for a closer view as he went by with frequent stops to talk in his inimitable manner.
His focus was on the role of women in the family, as a voice which needs to be heard, also in society and very interestingly, in the Church. His remarks to the different language groups focussed sensitively on the problems each face in their different societies; so much an echo of St. Teresa’s concerns in the XVI century. One might ask why so little real progress in the last five hundred years in so many areas of life.
Staying with the Discalced Carmelite friars was an especial privilege, attached as the house is to the church dedicated to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, with the veil, which she wore on her visit to Pope Leo XIII, when she was fifteen years of age, framed in a beautiful side chapel, where we prayed Lauds and Vespers with members of the congregation.
I also had the delight of going out for a Cuban meal, to which the Hispanic fathers had been invited. It was great fun and there I tried yucca for the first time – quite delicious, though some of us struggled to eat the generous portions of ‘frijoles’, delicious fried banana and various other delights!
The friars were so welcoming, a gift of presence in the city, a huge blessing, which I even more fully appreciated after my departure, enfolded, as I felt, by their kindness. A quiet, solicitous presence, the friars, combining both a priestly and a Carmelite vocation, with apparent effortlessness dedicate themselves to prayer, parish, study, writing, lecturing and doubtless many other tasks beside (not to mention guide extraordinaire); a witness to the mystery of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in a life dedicated to prayer, which finds expression in selfless oblation to others.
It was particularly special for me, as I was received into my local community, as a secular for formation with a group near Oxford, Saturday last, a first, tiny step and many more to go!