“Church Drunk”

To be clear, the Church has some strong words about drunkenness which can lead to all sorts of other serious sins as a result of willingly surrendering our free will (see for example Catechism, 2290), but that is NOT what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is the experience of being around something so awesome to such an extent that you begin to forget just how incredible, amazing, or otherwise awesome it really is! Being in the city of Rome, being “Church drunk” can happen very easily. In fact, it’s a condition which I’ve heard of in many people that I’ve talked to and perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself. This condition is perhaps more of a problem in the Eternal City because there is literally a church or chapel on at least every other street corner. It isn’t just a manner of speaking as in, say, South Omaha or Saunders & Butler Counties.  What further adds to the risk of being “Church Drunk” is that they are ALL amazingly beautiful; at least up to this point, I haven’t seen a Church in which I’ve thought: They could have done a better job with this one…really! So at the risk of causing you to succumb to “Church-drunkennness,” I begin this post…

Being assigned to study in Rome has afforded me the opportunity to avoid this dangerous, but all-too-common condition.  Like a good glass of wine, the best way to enjoy the city’s beauty seems to be slowly and over long periods of time. Thus, the mode by which I am now operating…

Having heard little tidbits of information from guys in the house, and realizing that I’ve got some free time, I decided to venture out into the city; this time more slowly and orderly, so I decided to start at the top: St. Peter’s! Tuesday morning, I made my way over and navigated the madness that is Italian culture in general and St. Peter’s, in particular.  While I was able to get an altar in the crypt of the Basilica, I later realized that I took the wrong one which, wildly enough, was to be used by another American priest from the Casa Santa Maria! Now I owe some American sisters “time in the box” (these sisters work at the Casa and line up priests to hear confessions on Sunday morning at one of the English-speaking Churches in town)! After celebrating Mass and making a Holy Hour at St. Peter’s, I made my way slowly back to the Casa, deciding to just stop by a FEW of the many Churches along the way.  Enjoy a few pictures from the various Churches:

Church of St. Agnes, Piazza Navona
Church of St. Agnes, Piazza Navona
The skull of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, in the Church of St. Agnes, Piazza Navona.
The skull of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, in the Church of St. Agnes, Piazza Navona.
The famous painting, The Call of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio in the Church of St. Louis of France
The famous painting, The Call of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio in the Church of St. Louis of France
The tomb of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, in the Church of St. Augustine.
The tomb of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, in the Church of St. Augustine.

I will stop, lest I cause you to succumb to the condition of Church drunkenness! After all that, I decided I should return to the Casa Santa Maria and quietly spend the rest of the day in house!

Wednesday, in an attempt to normalize my life, I went for a run, but since this is Rome, even an innocent thing like a 6-mile jog will cause you to run by the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and on the old Appian Way to the Catacombs of St. Callistus and the Quo Vadis Church where it’s said that Christ appeared to St. Peter as St. Peter was fleeing persecution in Rome, and in response to Peter’s question (Where are you going, Lord? – in Latin, Quo vadis, Dominus?), Jesus said: I’m going back to Rome to be crucified because you will not! (Peter did turn around and go back to Rome where he was subsequently crucified).  That will really give you something to think about as you’re running along! That…and the rooster that I unexpectedly encountered as I quickly found myself on the outskirts of town! 

Quo Vadis Church on the old Appian Way
Quo Vadis Church on the old Appian Way

Allora…if you have not paused to take a breathe at this point, you are probably at risk of falling victim to Church drunkenness, but I must continue. Maybe you should take a break before you continue reading, however; just a thought….And, we’re back.  Wednesday was a simple day; myself and another priest of the Casa went on pilgrimage to…you guessed it…St. Peter’s.  This time because it was the feast of St. Gregory the Great, Pope.  In the main body of the Basilica, the tomb of St. Gregory the Great can be found.  Being a graduate of St. Gregory the Great and being only 30 minutes (on foot) from his tomb on his feast day, I thought it only just to go to said tomb and pray, especially for the alumni of St. Gregory the Great Seminary, for our diocesan seminarians, for the faculty of St. Gregory the Great Seminary, and for the current seminarians of the Seminary.  Let me just say that praying in front of that holy place on that holy day really made the Faith tangible. We don’t just pray to people who are imaginary or whom we’ve made up in our heads. We pray to people who really existed and with whom we really have a connection; IT’S BEAUTIFUL! THE CATHOLIC FAITH IS BEAUTIFUL! The more time I spend in Rome, the more I’m convinced of this reality: our Faith is real, our Faith is powerful, and our Faith is beautiful.

Altar of St. Gregory the Great, housing the mortal remains of St. Gregory the Great, Pope, decorated for his feast day.
Altar of St. Gregory the Great, housing the mortal remains of St. Gregory the Great, Pope, decorated for his feast day.

 So, the first experience celebrating Mass at St. Peter’s was not ideal; it was filled with frustration of trying to celebrate Mass in Italian, the first time of doing something with which I was unfamiliar, and having a “loud-mouth American” (brother priest from the Casa Santa Maria in the next chapel over celebrating Mass in English). Thus, I decided to try it again on Thursday! This time, I had a server to help, so we ended up at the Sacred Heart altar around the corner from the High Altar of St. Peter’s (where only the Pope can celebrate Mass). It was truly a beautiful experience in the presence of our Lord and a beautiful piece of artwork:

The altar of the Sacred Heart, St. Peter's Basilica - Roma, Italia
The altar of the Sacred Heart, St. Peter’s Basilica – Roma, Italia

Following Mass and a holy hour, I decided to take the tour to the top of the dome for some famous vistas of the city of Rome; even on a cloudy day, it’s worth the effort to climb some 500+ stairs to get to the first level of the dome (the 2nd level is closed off, perhaps due to the danger of such a climb, but I’m not really sure).  After that, I returned to the Casa for some reading and other ways to pass the rest of the day.  Remember, we don’t want to experience “Church-Drunkenness.”

My suggestion to you at this point is find a comfortable spot within your home where you can close your eyes, be quiet and not be over-stimulated by countless beautiful things. This will keep you from being overwhelmed by AWESOME-NESS! Once you have recovered, you’ll be ready for the next installment of Roman beauty. Until then, I’m going to find a quiet, comfortable spot and just keep reminding myself…it’s real; you’re really in Rome…you’re really in Rome…you’re really in Rome.

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