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Vespers and hot chocolate
Friday, we met with the Father General of the Passionists and his General Council. Tonight we had the privilege to pray with the Passionist students and invite them over for Italian cioccolate caldo – something more akin to hot chocolate pudding than the kind of drinking hot chocolate I’m used to in the states.
About twenty of their students, most Italians, joined about half the Lay Centre residents in the evening after to get to know one another. It was our first opportunity to put names to the faces we’ve seen here and in the universities. It was also a test of my very minimal Italian, as the brothers I spent most of the night speaking with had virtually no English!
Father Fernando Millán Romeral is the Prior General of the Ordo Fratrum Beatissimae Virginis Mariae de Monte Carmelo, better known as the Carmelites. He is an expert on reconciliation, both in its sacramental form and its theological context, and was a professor of sacramental theology. He is also involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue, and has published half dozen books and numerous articles, mostly in his native Spanish. He was elected superior of the order in September 2007, and was the Lay Centre’s guest presider and presenter this evening.
The Carmelites ‘boast’ 17 Saints, 45 Blessed, and over 100 others whose causes have been started and are classed as Venerable or Servants of God. Some of the most well known include St. John of the Cross, and Doctors of the Church St. Therésè of Liseux and St. Teresa of Avila. Carmelite spirituality is one of the most widely practiced and deeply respected in the Church. Unlike so many religious orders which owe their charism and founding to the vision of a saintly founder, the Carmelites have their origin with a community of pilgrim-penitents who lived as hermits near the “spring of Elijah” on Mount Carmel, in Palestine near the end of the 12th century. Their charism is fraternity, service, and contemplation.
Father Fernando’s comments during and after dinner focused on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the need for its renewal in the life of the church. Just the name itself, he said, is one indicator of the challenges facing the sacrament. Four different variations are common, each with their own emphasis and champions: Reconciliation, Penance, Confession, and the sacrament of Forgiveness. Though the theology of Vatican II documents clearly prefers Reconciliation, post-Conciliar texts such as the Code of Canon Law use other names. Pope John Paul II was always careful to use the four terms equitably so as not to give favor for one over the other.
One of the first aspects to know with regard to the sacrament is that in response to the call of Sacrosanctum Concilium for the renewal of the liturgy and the revision of the sacramental texts, the work on the sacrament of Reconciliation took the longest. When it was finally completed, in 1984, the most common response was, “well, what changed”? With some exceptions, this sacrament is celebrated in essentially the same form as it was before the revisions (numbers of penitents notwithstanding). Perhaps this indicates that the real renewal of the sacrament has yet to take place.
In anticipation of that renewal, the Carmelite General made several observations. It is a sacrament, therefore it is a liturgy, and should always be celebrated as a liturgy – in community. It should always be celebrated with the Liturgy of the Word. The current Form II – Communal celebration with individual absolution – is really the normative form, the others being exceptions as necessary (either completely individual, or completely communal).
Even in Rome, though, it is hard to change the momentum. The prior general told us of how, in his first year as bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI intended to have the sacrament celebrated according to Form II in St. Peters; he ‘was not allowed’ (“Perhaps this is not the best way to say it, but basically, that is what happened!”). The logistics of the normative form were too overwhelming in a culture where you can still find (very beautiful) 18th century wooden confessionals scattered throughout the papal basilicas for penitents to confess their sins to waiting priests in a variety of languages – in some places even while the Eucharist is being celebrated.
Basilica Santa Maria in Domnica
Besides the Lay Centre’s own chapel, the closest church is actually the Basilica of Saints John and Paul of the Cross, attached to the Passionist Monastery that is our landlord. However, given the geography and the means of getting around the property, it is actually closer to go to the local parish church, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Domnica, also known as Santa Maria della Navicella.
First, a little perspective is in order. Growing up in rural North Bend, WA about 30 miles east of Seattle, the nearest parish was a 15 minute drive away, in neighboring Snoqualmie.
Within a 15 minute walk from the Lay Centre, there are about a dozen churches, including the Cathedral Archbasilica of San Giovanni Laterano, the ancient San Clemente, one of Rome’s three circular churches, San Stefano Rotondo, and a chapel for the Missionaries of Charity. I am still making my rounds!
The parish church derives its dual names from different features of and around the basilica. In front of the church is a marble statue of a small ship (navicella), turned into a fountain by Leo X in the early 16th century as a replica of the original, which had been there ‘since time immemorial’. The official name of Domnica is variously attributed, either in reference to the church as a “house of the Lord” or to the name of a wealthy patroness who lived in the area whose name translated also meant “of the Lord”.
Originally built somewhere between the 4th and 7th century on the ruins of a military barracks, it was renovated by Pope Pascal I in the early 9th century, and it was again refurbished by Pope Leo X in the 16th century. Pope Pascal was also connected to the Basilica Santa Prassede, which I mentioned a few weeks ago, also known for its beautiful mosaics, including that of Pascal’s mother, Episcopa Theodora. In Santa Maria Domnica, the mosaic represents an icon of the Theotokos and Christ child, correctly situated in the center rather than at his mother’s side, flanked by saints and angels. Pope Pascal is seen at Mary’s feet, with the square halo indicating he was still alive when the mosaic was completed.
The cardinal-titular of the church is William Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and former Archbishop of Portland and of San Francisco (and before than an auxiliary under Cardinal Mahony in LA). The basilica also serves as a parish center for the lay movement, Comunione e Liberazione (Communion and Liberation).
Communion and Liberation is one of the many lay ecclesial movements that have been popular in the Italian church and elsewhere in the last 40-50 years. While lay ecclesial ministry developed along the same timeline in northern Europe and North America, these lay ecclesial movements took precedence in Italy and in many of the Latin countries. CL traces its origins to the thought and ministry of an Italian priest Luigi Giussani dating back to the mid-50s, but the movement itself has its identifiable beginning with to a small group of Giussani’s students in 1969. The model is less of definite membership than in attendance in weekly catechetical meetings known as the “School of Community”. Estimates are of about 100,000 attending regularly in Italy, and there is a presence in almost 80 other countries, though nowhere as strong as here in Italy.
For both the feast of the Immaculate Conception, today, and the celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent I joined a group of my housemates from the Lay Centre in participating in the liturgy here. I just did not feel like braving the rain and the Roman crowds (and pickpockets) to make it to the Piazza Spagna for the Papal event there. Maybe next year!
Santa Susanna: the American parish in Rome
With friend and ecumenical mentor Ron Roberson, CSP in town this week for the updating of the Vatican’s official guide on the eastern churches, I decided it was time to make my first visit to the American parish in Rome, Santa Susanna.
Having spent 11 years in Rome as a student at the Oriental Institute and then as staff to the Pontifical Council, Ron also served as vice-rector of the parish community at Santa Susanna, which is staffed by the Paulist fathers. So, on this brief visit back in Rome, he was presiding at the 10:30 liturgy for Christ the King, and it seemed as good a time as any to try it out. I had been ‘warned’ that it was a “typical American parish”, despite my skepticism that such an animal existed.
The church of Santa Susanna is one of the oldest in Rome, originally build in 330 AD in the Constantine basilica style over the house church of St. Susanna, martyred in 293 AD. You can still go down into the crypt, which was part of the original house, and where the Eucharistic feast was celebrated since at least 285 AD. St. Susanna, her father St. Gabinus, and St. Felicity are all buried here.
During the 8th and 16th centuries it went through some dramatic renovations and restorations. The current design and style dates to 1595, and the façade was the original masterpiece of Carlo Maderno, whose work impressed Pope Sixtus V enough that he was commissioned to do the same for St. Peter’s Basilica.
The liturgy and community experience was, I admit it, ‘typically’ American, especially compared to my other liturgical experiences of the last two months. The organ played too loudly, so you could hardly hear the choir or assembly sing. The music was otherwise good, generally singable, and very mixed in style. The preaching and presiding were great, not surprisingly. There was even a full 8 ½ x 11 parish bulletin (most Roman churches have none, or a smaller worship aid rather than announcements), and coffee and cornetti after mass in the vestibule.
People always ask about liturgical postures, so I have to add that the most notable was how much time was spent kneeling: More than any other church in Rome, including the Tridentine rite parish! The universal norm calls for standing throughout the Eucharistic prayer, but several national churches have adapted that somewhat to include kneeling. In Rome, either you stand the whole time (as at the papal liturgies) or just kneel between the Epiclesis and the mysterium fidei. The U.S. norm is kneeling from the Sanctus to the Great Amen – which seemed like a really long time compared to the Roman practice. Then, they knelt for the communion rite too, which I have not seen in Rome, or in the States since before the GIRM revisions.
Thankfully, in proper American tradition, we had padded kneelers.
Ecumenical Vespers at “del Caravita”
The Oratory of Saint Francis Xavier “del Caravita” is one of those churches in Rome you would never find unless you knew where to look, even though it is just off one of the main thoroughfares in the City. It is described as “an international catholic community in Rome”, Jesuit in origin but staffed by priests from four different orders. Aside from the national churches for the U.S., England, Ireland, and the Philippines it is the only Catholic church offering weekly Sunday liturgy in English.
On Friday, we celebrated evening prayer presided by Cardinal Kasper, with Archbishop Rowan Williams as the homilist, sponsored by the Anglican Centre in Rome. A simple and beautiful liturgy with what I thought was an especially powerful version of the renewal of baptismal vows, it was a nice counterbalance to the Colloquium the day before: a day of academic lecture complemented by an evening of prayer.
The pack of news photographers that had followed Dr. Williams throughout the lectures yesterday was back tonight, and it amazes me he was able to focus on preaching with the constant picture taking. Of course, trying to find one of these photos online to share is not easy, this is the best I could do: http://www.catholicpressphoto.com/servizi/2009-11-20%20Vespri/default.htm
After the prayer, we were able to meet the Cardinal, the Archbishop, and even U.S. Ambassador Miguel Diaz and his wife, Marian, who were in attendance. Unfortunately, we only got a couple shots with Archbishop Williams, though I did invite Cardinal Kasper to dine at the Lay Centre sometime. (We’re on the Ambassador’s list already. Somewhere down there…)
Extraordinary Form: The Tridentine Rite in Rome
With something like 900 churches, chapels, and oratories in Rome, I could visit one a day and still have a long way to go by the time I graduated. However, since we have our community Eucharist weekly in the Lay Centre, I am trying to spend Sunday worship somewhere different each week to continue getting a sense of the Church, both Roman and catholic.
This Sunday I joined some friends who are regulars at the parish church of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini (Most Holy Trinity of Pilgrims). Trinità is the personal parish in Rome for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, more commonly called the Tridentine Rite. It is staffed by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.
Just as the liturgy was renewed in 1970 by Paul VI in accordance with the Vatican II Council, so it was after the Council of Trent when Pius V promulgated the Roman Missal of 1570. “Tridentine” simply means “of Trent”. The latest of several revisions to this liturgy of Trent was made by John XXIII in 1962, and it is that version which was approved by Benedict XVI on 7.7.07 for use as the extraordinary form of the liturgy.
At one level, I was not sure what to expect. I am too young not only to have missed being formed by this liturgy and the concomitant devotions and ‘Catholic ghetto’ identity, but I also missed the most tumultuous years of peri- and post-Conciliar development, changes, and even occasional abuses. I simply do not have a neuralgic response to either the Tridentine liturgy or to the phrase “Spirit of Vatican II” as do so many of my older colleagues of different generations. Some experiences I have had did lead to some expectations, some of which were confirmed and some of which were totally blown away.
While this was my first experience with a “high mass” according to the extraordinary form, it was neither my first Tridentine nor Latin liturgy. While I have participated in some beautiful liturgies in Latin before, they were all according to the normative Roman Rite – in other words, the same mass we celebrate every Sunday in English, Spanish, Italian, etc.
My (admittedly few) previous experiences of the Tridentine form could not be described, by any stretch of the imagination, as beautiful. In fact, they could hardly be described as liturgy: terrible music, if any, nothing resembling “full, conscious, and active participation” by the assembly, and a vapidity so pervasive that the sacramentality, spirituality, and genuine reverence for the Eucharistic liturgy was almost totally lost. In at least one case the priest’s Latin was so bad the actual validity of the consecration was called into question. Each time it seemed more about making a ‘political’ statement in the culture wars than in actual worship or an act of communion.
Given the people who invited me, however, I was confident that this would not be a repeat of those experiences, whatever it turned out to be. As it turned out, that involved both beauty and illumination.
Gregorian and other chant done well – the music was beautiful. My rusty Latin was enough to know what part of the mass I was in, and to sing along with some of the mass parts, but mostly it was enough to just listen.
About one hundred twenty people were there, the median age seeming to be in their early 50’s, with a pretty good mix from two or three small children to people old enough to have been formed in this rite. We had a crowd of about fifteen students from the pontifical universities, most of whom are regulars. I only saw a couple of mantillas in the whole assembly. A small pamphlet had the readings and some prayers in Latin and Italian. The major parts of the mass were recognizable from the current form of the Rite, and from what I remember studying in my Liturgical history courses. Announcements and collections are not much different, though the former came in the middle of mass rather than at the beginning or the end.
Having an inaudible Eucharistic canon and to be so far removed from the altar did distract a little from prayer and participation, as did not always knowing when to kneel, stand, or sit or precisely why. Not that I could kneel anyway, there was not room enough! One thing that was consistent with more than a few regular parishes, though, was that everybody seemed to have their own expectations about this anyway, and most of the time about half were kneeling while half were standing. It was not very uniform, but neither did that seem to matter to anyone.
Cognitively, I know that the idea of the long nave with a high altar at one end, the presider and other ministers facing ad orientem along with the people is supposed to represent the presbyter leading the people in the sacrifice and their pilgrim journey. I also know that most people experienced this more as a sense of removal and non-participation, of the mass as a private devotion of the priest “over there” while we did our thing “over here”. Personally, it felt neither like I was being led in worship, nor that I was completely removed from the action. As something both deeply familiar and existentially unfamiliar, I guess I was in more of an observer-participant role, a student in prayer.
The need for the renewal and reform of Vatican II was made evident to me, on one hand. This is a liturgy pretty far removed from those described in the early church, and not easily accessible for a lot of people, especially if not done as well as it was at Trinità. On the other hand, I could see how it would be a difficult adjustment for people formed by this liturgy to adapt to the current Rite, especially if their experience of the transition was handled badly and without proper catechesis, as seemed to be the case in too many places.
What is most striking to me is the people and their attitude regarding the liturgy, at least those I spoke with, which includes friends from the Angelicum, the Lay Centre, and others. A German friend describes the participants as “traditionalists, but not necessarily conservatives.”
In the States, generally, it seems that the Tridentine mass has become little more than a weapon of the culture war, as I mentioned above. “More Catholic than Benedict XVI, more conservative than Pius IX, and holier than Mother Teresa” would be the motto. Probably they are here too, just as the opposite extreme can be found in some other parishes, if one looks hard enough.
Here, instead, are people of prayer, less interested in proving that they have the “true mass”, than in worshiping as fully as they are able, in a Rite and a spirituality that speaks most clearly to them. Motivated by genine reverence rather than triumphalism, tradition rather than traditionalism, i felt as welcome here as i have my first time in any parish (well, except Blessed Teresa, but that was a truly exceptional experience!)
Hallowe’en in Rome, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and All Saints
I nearly forgot it was Halloween yesterday without all the candy and pumpkins in the stores; barely any orange or brown to be found in the city.
Apparently, it has not been a big holiday for Romans, or Italians in general. The big costume holidays are Epiphany, where they tend to dress up as La Befana, a gift-delivering witch who visits on January 6, and Carneval.
A small group of us went out for an evening passagata around the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, stopping for gelato en route, and finishing with a nice bottle of wine at a little wine bar/café. We saw a few Befana hats out early, but really it was only as we were heading home for the night, about midnight, that we saw more people in costume.
For the morning of All Saints, I opted for the Basilica San Paolo fuori la mura (St. Paul Outside the Walls). Rezart, one of my Muslim housemates, is working on a paper about the Eucharist, and he decided to join me so he could compare his first mass experience from Wednesday night here in the Lay Centre to a more formal experience at the Basilica. An added bonus is that Abbot Edmund was presiding at both liturgies, so the difference in personal presider styles could be taken out of the equation. Matthew joined us on location, in exchange for a visit to his parish next week, to which I am looking forward.
St. Paul’s is the huge basilica built over the tomb of St. Paul, outside the old city walls (hence the name), one of the four major basilicas. Until the new St. Peter’s was built (1506-1625), St. Paul’s was the largest church in the world. Along the walls are the images of the bishops of Rome going back to Peter – the source for those posters one finds all over the place.
St. Paul’s has also become significant in Rome’s ecumenical efforts, including being the location of the culminating liturgy for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity each year. In fact, it was from the steps of St. Paul’s that John XIII announced Vatican II at the end of the celebration for Christian Unity 50 years ago.
Afterwards, Abbot Edmund was generous enough to meet with Rezart and me to answer questions and show us around a little. It is a gift to share the liturgy with someone experiencing it for the first time, especially someone so interested in learning about our worship. The questions remind us of the theology and symbolism we take for granted, and push for better understanding of what we might do out of habit. His first question was like this, he wanted to know why, if the Eucharist itself was a sacrifice made for the forgiveness of sins, why we had a penitential rite just a little while before celebrating the once-and-for-all penitential act! From there we ventured into the symbolism of serving only one species or both, the meaning of incense, and expansion from the homily and so on. It was a blessing for me to just listen!
After returning to the Lay Centre for lunch and a little homework, we ventured out again to All Saints Anglican, to celebrate their patronal feast, and to cheer on Stian who had his acolyting debut. Nine of us in total joined the small English community fro Evensong, then ventured to a pizzeria founded in 1753 (according to the waitress’ t-shirt anyway) and located just down the road, near San Clemente. Donna assured us in advance it was the best pizza in Rome, and we were not disappointed!
Ahhh, Bella Roma!
I am in Rome. After a flight cancellation, delayed luggage, and a fairly typical (read: nail-biting) taxi ride from Fiumincino airport to my new residence, I arrived at the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas at about 1700 (5pm for us non-Europeans), just over 24 hours after Nancy dropped me off at SeaTac. Just in time for a brief tour, a moment to admire the view from my room, and a short nap before venturing to the nearby church of Santa Maria in Domenica for Mass and then dinner with the other residents.
With this blog I hope to regularly update family, friends, and insomniac internet wanderers as to my life in the Eternal City, as well as to provide reflections on the courses, research and other theological or ecclesiastical goings on. My intent is to save your inboxes but keep in touch, and to provide either catechesis or opportunity for theological discussion, depending on the reader. Please feel free to respond publicly or privately! I’m looking forward to a view of the church from Rome, though I have a long way to go on my Italian before it becomes unfiltered!
Some initial observations:
Technology: I am seriously considering investing in trans-Atlantic homing pigeons and a stock of quill pens. Our wireless connection at the residence has only worked for a few hours a couple of times over the last week and a half, apparently because of some issue with the electricity – twice the routers have been fried by the electrical system in the monastery! Likewise, the wireless at the Angelicum University has not been connected to the internet any time I have tried it, but I was able to ‘borrow’ a cable from a physics conference on campus last week. Not that it mattered too much, as my laptop crashed literally the first time I turned it on in Rome. Thankfully my files were backed up, but I left some important software backups at home, like my Italian lessons from Rosetta Stone…
Liturgy: My first Sunday Eucharist was the Pontifical Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica for the opening of the Synod of Bishops for Africa. If you’ve been there, you know San Pietro is “in the round”, albeit in a cruciform shape, with the altar in the center – much like St. Brendan’s in Bothell. And, like St Brendan, the presider (in this case the Holy Father) was able to celebrate both ad orientem and versus populum, simultaneously. That is, to face east, one must also face the largest section of the assembly in the long nave adjacent to the piazza. Communion was taken in the hand, along the center aisle, with the Eucharistic ministers moving back and forth between about five or six rows. The cup was not offered, and we stood during the Eucharistic prayer. The mass parts were in Latin, given the international character of the liturgy, but readings in English and Portuguese, with prayers in the languages of Africa, from Ge’ez and Arabic to Swahili and French. Most other liturgy has been in the community; more on that momentarily.
Diet, Exercise, and Environment: The university is just about a 35 minute walk from our residence, and the Centro Pro Unione (Center for Union), which serves as the library for my department, is another 30 minute walk beyond that. Though, as I walk around in my shorts and shirtsleeves sweating enough to flood the colloseo, I no doubt stand out like a sore thumb, as the Romans are all dressed in black, some wearing coats already, all in long pants, and never seem to break a sweat. It must be 75 and its very humid, but apparently it’s a big relief from summer! As for food, I have never eaten so well in my life! After just a few days, I actually feel healthier. Even the cappuccino seems fresher, smaller, and less addictive.
I also really appreciate the pausa – or siesta – the break from about 12:30-3:30pm which is especially necessary on hot days. You just cannot get anything done in the heat, so why not nap, and save your energy for the more active evening time? So classes are held 830-12:30, then 3:30-7:30, and many businesses are on similar hours.
To orient yourself to my daily route, look at a map of Rome (google maps is good), start just south of the Colloseo at the monastery of Sts. John and Paul (on the site of the Temple of Claudius), follow Via Claudia north along the east side of the colloseo, then along the Via dei Fori Imperiali past the Foro Romano and the Foro Augusto to the Monument for Vittorio Emmanuele II. Turn right at Trajan’s Column, up the stairs to the church of Santi Domenico e Sisto – that’s the Angelicum “campus”. From there to the Centro Pro Unione, head back west and somewhat north to the Piazza Navona, passing the Church of the Gesù, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and the Pantheon if you like. Just behind the Palace Pamphilj, the Society of the Atonement has their headquarters and the Centro. Rest assured, I have already been shown the famous Gellateria La Palma nearby!
Community: I am staying at the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas, which has an interesting history. Foyer Unitas was originally founded in 1962 by a small Dutch religious order of women known as the Ladies of Bethany as a house of hospitality for any non-Catholic in Rome, just off the Piazza Navona in the same building as the Centro Pro Unione. The Lay Centre is the brainchild of Dr. Donna Orsuto and Riekie van Velzen, who had been connected to the Foyer Unitas, as a college for those of us coming to Rome who did not quite fit in to the ecclesiastical residences. The NAC, for example, houses only seminarians and priests, leaving religious to live with their orders, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers, along with other lay students, to fend for themselves. Founded in 1986, it was housed first at Foyer Unitas (hence the name) and then in the English College, the Irish College, and now at the Passionist Monastery of Sts. John and Paul.
We are 21 residents this year, from Albania, Canada, Germany, Greece, Ghana, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Serbia, Turkey, and the U.S. Three Muslims, three Eastern Orthodox, an Anglican, and the rest of us are Catholic. We have a medical doctor, a lawyer, and a nurse all studying for new vocations. Breakfast and lunch are self serve during the week, with dinner at 7:45 followed by Compline (night prayer). Wednesdays are our community nights, with mass at 7:00pm followed by dinner and usually a presentation. During our first several days, we’ve had brief presentations during dinner each night, and a day of reflection on Sunday. We’ve already had some orientation to community life from a Jesuit, a Benedictine, an Augustinian, and a Marist, in addition to our director (Donna Orsuto) and assistant (Robert White).
The location is a profound blessing. We are in the historical center or Rome, within the Aurelian walls, but with large enough private gardens that we are removed from the street noise – something unheard of almost anywhere else in the city. We sit on top of one of the famous Seven Hills of Rome, Monte Celio, and my bedroom window looks right down on the Foro Romano, the Colloseum, and the Capitoline Hill with the Monument for Vittorio Emanuele. From our patio ledge, we can see the dome of San Pietro.