What had just popped out of her mouth was lunacy, and it hit her in an instant; we had seen hundreds of churches over the past five days (many of which we probably didn't even know were churches as we past them). She made a crazy face and then just started laughing uproariously.
We have, for sure, seen many, many houses of God over these past five precious days. Some have been overwhelming: certainly St. Peter's and the Basilica of St. John Lateran. And these certainly did leave an impact on us, as we moved from station to station along our Roman pilgrimage.
Some churches were almost outlandish: for example, the explosion of Bernini's artwork crammed into the little church of Santa Maria della Victoria. The intensity of the faux-golden-rays and piles of statuary inched me on to a sacramental headache. (How can anyone get past all that stuff to the heart of the Eucharist?)
Some, however, were striking and memorable in their simplicity. Sancta Cecilia in Trastevere was a beautiful space, both for worship and by way of honor to the woman who is the patron saint of music.
And we will not forget the intimacy of mosaic that was so beautifully described by our friend Paolo at Sancta Maria: Jesus, with his arm around his mother, all done in stunning mosaic above the sanctuary space. It is not often that the pair of them are depicted in such an affectionate way.
Rome was a city of superlatives: it would not be unusual to see a plaza or street intersection with sometimes up to three churches, all Catholic, crammed together. At the American church of Sancta Susannah, two others were literally a stone's throw away, including a marvelous little church run by the Trappists (and, of course, dedicated to Saint Bernard).
And there were other superlatives as well: the heat, the press of humanity, the wacky bus system that we were still trying to figure out five days later. Yet, even with all this, Rome left a lasting aura of fondness with both me and Michele. And now, after this visit, we have made some solid connections and friendships. By virtue of staying at the Villa Irlanda, we now have established a great relationship with the new rector, Fr. Kieran O'Carroll. And we will also continue to deepen our collaboration, even creatively, with the Sant'Egidio community, something that might also have repercussions for Notre Dame's own programs in the city.
Time, now, to say good bye. You all know how that is said in Italian!
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Location:En route from Rome, Italy