Last days in Rome

As noted previously, Fr. Bernie Rosinski, SCJ, is among those on a pilgrimage to Rome organized by the province development office. What follows is his final blog post from the trip:

This is the last pilgrimage blog from this reporter. It has been a delight to sit down and recall the highlights of the pilgrim’s day. Perhaps, we can learn that every day has its highlights from God, though we often don’t recognize them as such.

Saturday, the group traveled to Monte Cassino to visit the famous Benedictine Abbey founded by St. Benedict at the juncture of a high promontory overlooking several deep valleys. The imposing position of the abbey can be seen from everywhere below and it is no wonder that its strategic importance was recognized by the warring factions in World War II. The present abbey was rebuilt after extensive damage caused by Allied bombing. Br. Steve Cyr, a deceased SCJ of the U.S. Province, was wounded at Monte Cassino.

From there the group went to Pompey to see the excavated remains of a city destroyed by a natural, rather than a military, force: an erupting volcano in 79 AD. The power of Vesuvius and its destructive force is unimaginble.

Though the trip took several hours, the group arrived back home in Rome only 10 minutes later than planned and was in plenty of time to participate in a Roman style banquet — one that takes several hours to complete. It begins with wines, red and white from the local vintners, and water from the local bottlers.

After a bit, an antipasto is served. The amount of food is not too great but it certainly whets the appetite of hungry people who desparately fear that this is all they will get to eat. So, they wolf it down: bruschetta and sauteed egg plant and  zuchini strips, with garlic oil and a light sausage. Once the plate is clean, the pilgrims stare at their empty plates (if they have never experienced a Roman banquet before) and a note of desperation filters through the rising level of conversation.

Twenty or so minutes later, the waiter or waitress (there is only one no matter how large the group may be), returns to pick up the empty plates and a sense of hope is restored. This raises the volume even more.

Shortly thereafter, the pasta plate appears. American pilgrims know pasta. They often make their main meal of spaghetti. In Italy, things differ slightly: pasta is intended to line the stomach for the  delicacies that are to follow. But first, it takes another half hour to finish the pasta, then to have the waiter or waitress return to collect the empty plates. In the meantime, between courses, people feel like they are starving.

At last the main course is delivered on a plate to each guest. We had patatine, with chicken strips, and salad. Having nibbled on tasty Italian bread throughout all the previous courses and dipped it into olive oil, some patrons end having leftover chicken on their plates. I guess this is used to feed the cats of Rome of which there are many.

The desert course was a fresh fruit cocktail in a semi-sweet sauce. It was the perfect end to a marvelous banquet that took nearly three hours. However, by this means the pilgrim group had another experience of a different culture than their own and talked about it all the way back to the hotel.

Fr. Bernie Rosinski

That was Saturday. Sunday was entirely different. It began on a very high note: the bus was on time and took us to St. Peter’s Square where with a minumum of delay the pilgrims easily passed through security to get into St. Peter’s (a reminder of the assassination attempt on Blessed Pope John Paul II). We were guided into St. Peter’s Basilica where Fr. Dominic and I concelebrated an 8:00 a.m. Mass at the “Polish” chapel, i.e., the chapel of our Lady of Czestochowa.

Having concluded our Mass and gone to our agreed upon meeting place, we met our guide a little after 9 a.m. From that point, things began to “go south” as we Americans say. The sky began to cloud up. By the time we had bussed to our closest point to the Piazza Navona where we were to begin the day’s tours, drops of rain began to fall. Actually, once in Piazza Navona, the wind blew water from the fountain on us so that we were inundated from the top and from the side.
Sunday morning is church day. And even though the Roman churches and basilicas tolerate visitors to see the wonderful artwork, Sunday morning is Mass time and visitors and pilgrims may not visit and move about. It is sacred time. Though our tour guide tried to compensate for the schedule conflict by giving us time for shopping and gelato (delicious Italian ice cream), we still were a bit too early. However, we managed successfully to visit the Pantheon, the church of St. Ignatius with its ceiling fescoes by Fr. Luigi Pozzo, and the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. The entire circuit entailed a great deal of walking on cobblestones which are not kind to tired feet. The group did manage to make its way to the Fountain of Trevi and a 45 minute pause for food and/or shopping. At that point, a decision was made to end our tourist day, and not a moment too soon. As we made our way to where the bus was located, we were drowned by a downpour that saw rivulets of water course down the streets where we were walking. All in all, when we consider the great weather we had on all our other days, this day was an exception.

Monday is a day on which no program is scheduled. The pilgrims will be free to choose to do what they want: visit a favoritve place, shop, eat, pray, pack. Tuesday, we return to the United States.

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