12 October 2009

Seeking sanctuary

This morning, after a quick visit to what I like to call “liturgical row” to purchase a new alb, I took a taxi to the Basilica of St. John on the Lateran Hill, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome and the “head and mother of all churches” to concelebrant a Mass offered in thanksgiving for Saint Damien of Molokai.

I thought the Mass was to be celebrated by the Most Reverend Clarence “Larry” Silva, Bishop of Honolulu for what one friend has called “the Polynesian influx.” I was mistaken. The Mass was celebrated by a Cardinal with several Bishops, nearly one hundred priests (by guestimation) and a basilica full of the faithful from all over the world.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Silva was presented with a relic of Saint Damien, which will, in time, be enshrined in Honolulu’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

I was able to greet His Excellency after the Mass in the sacristy and to venerate the relic, a humbling moment and a great experience.

When I left the Basilica I planned to take the bus back to “liturgical row” near the Pantheon to finishing collecting a few items for me and for others. As I exited the basilica I noticed dark clouds overhead but lighter ones moving in and thought nothing of it. Suffice it to say that Rome is always full of surprises.

As I waited for the bus a few sprinkles began to fall and then seemingly without warning a heavy downpour deluged those of us not under a roof. With a mad dash we all made our way back into the basilica to seek a new form of sanctuary.

A few minutes later I took later I took a peek outside to check on the rain only to find a sunny and blue sky, so back to the bus stop I went.

Within moments I turned around to see a familiar face, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago who was one year ahead of my in the seminary and who lived on my floor. He invited me back to the Casa Santa Maria (the American house for priests in Rome) for lunch, an invitation I happily accepted.

After lunch I made my way back to the Pantheon to finish my shopping, seeking sanctuary in several churches along the way as the rain continue to fall intermittently and I failed to bring my umbrella with me when I left the hotel earlier in the morning.

After taking a quick shower back in the hotel I took the metro to the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Wall to pray at the recently unearthed sarcophagus of the Apostle to the Gentiles. I had considered taking this little pilgrimage before returning to the hotel, but on the way I found an altar cross I wanted to buy (and I didn’t want to lug it all around Rome). It seems Providence – or perhaps Saint Damien – was guiding my steps.

When I entered the Basilica I was surprised to hear singing in English and suddenly it occurred to me that I had heard that song before; I had stumbled upon that Polynesian influx yet again! I was delighted to have done so, though I wish I would have arrived a few minutes earlier (I arrived after the consecration). Being late, though, provided a good opportunity to take pictures (which have been posted here).

Bishop Silva concluded the Mass blessing the faithful with the relic of Father Damien. The Holy Father has apparently given a plenary indulgence to those who meet the normal conditions and venerate the relic.

After Mass, several of the priests of Honolulu asked me when I was returning to the islands and offered me housing. The Vocation Director told me there is another Aloha Run for Vocations planned for February 15th. When I return to Virden I may well look into this.

It was such a joy to stumble upon the Hawaiians again and it has me wondering yet again if I should not seek to follow in Father Damien’s footsteps and serve them. Time will tell, I suppose. That and, I suppose, my new Bishop when he comes (I’m presuming he’ll be around for a while).

All in all, today was a good day and tonight was a good night, despite the rain and the much cooler weather that blew in this evening.

The newspapers are apparently calling the weather for the next week “bad” because the temperatures will be ten degrees cooler (about 65 degrees), which leads to my favorite quote I’ve heard all week.

As we left the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, one of the ladies from Hawaii caught the chill breeze as she approached the door. She gave a quiet cry and said, “This isn’t Hawaii.” How right she is! Even for me, a native of the Midwest, the temperatures, with the strong winds, are cold. May I be in Hawaii again soon!

I haven’t quite decided what tomorrow will hold yet. Wednesday will see my return to Virden.

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