Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Catacombs of San Callisto on a Holy Saturday

Today we woke up to drizzling that lasted all day.  It seemed kind of fitting for Holy Saturday.  So did visiting the catacombs which is what we did.  I've wanted to see the catacombs since I was a little girl and today I really got to go.  It was so cool.  There are three major ones you can visit here and Brian chose the Catacombs of San Callisto for today.  But I'm really hoping we'll have a chance to visit the other two as well.

Are you tired of seeing pictures of my loved ones from behind yet?

The boys, especially David, were very excited to see them, too.

I was super disappointed to find out that you can't take photographs when you're down there.  So you know how much of a blog nerd I am?  I bought some postcards so that I could remember them and then I took a picture of the postcards so I could post them here.  Behold, pictures of pictures:

It was amazing and again, I could have stayed for so much longer than we did.  They were started in the 200s and our guide told us that over five hundred THOUSAND people were buried here.  About fifty percent of them were babies.  Can you even imagine?  So many of the crypts were so so tiny.  

There were sixteen popes who had been buried here (remains since moved) and dozens of bishops.  You can still see the encryption on the walls.  This is the tomb of St. Cecilia.  The statue is a replica of one found in the church dedicated to her which also contains her relics and it lies where she was buried.  Those paintings on the left are some of the oldest Christian paintings that exist.  On top is St. Cecelia and below is Christ.

Our guide told us that many of the stories you hear about the catacombs are actually not true.  The Christians didn't go there to hide and the tombs themselves were well known to everyone as both pagans and Christians buried their dead like this.  She claimed that the Masses prayed down in the family vaults were only done as a family devotion for the dead.  I'm not sure how much of that is true, especially about the Mass, but I found it interesting.  

She did say that soldiers would raid the tombs looking for the Christians, especially while saying Mass, but that this wasn't a "hiding" place since there was nothing secret about its existence and they weren't ashamed of their faith.  I'm really curious to know more.

Anyway, they go down 75 feet through the lava rock in a maze of tunnels and rooms.  Only about three percent of them are able to be toured.  I wish we could have stayed so much longer but you're ushered through rather quickly.  If you come with a priest, you can celebrate Mass in one of the rooms where the earliest Christians did.  How amazing would that be?

Afterwards we tried to let the boys have some time to run but the rain put a little damper on things.  Above ground all over the place are the air vents that were dug thousands of years ago for the tombs. 

  We headed back to the bus stop pretty quickly and took our bus and two subways back to our little neighborhood. 

The catacombs are located on the Appian Way
(I had no idea that was significant until John Paul told me.)

 On the walk back we picked up some bread, cheese, and salami from a local shop for lunch.  Do you know how many types of cheese there are in Italy?  A lot.  And the person helping me didn't speak English.  It was quite a show really, me trying to order cheese.  Thankfully, I picked out something that was quite pleasant and all was well.

We headed out late in the afternoon to pick up some things to be blessed at Mass tomorrow.  But no one needs to see pictures of Brian and me wrangling four children in a religious goods store, now do they?

If you happen to see this and wouldn't mind saying a quick prayer that we get a seat for the Easter morning Mass tomorrow as well as Michael being able to receive his First Communion, I'd really really appreciate it.  We'll be up crazy early to get our spot :)  Thank you so much!

Other Notes from Today:
-Seriously, how does Brian just know how to do all the subways and buses and train stuff?  I'm amazed and baffled and quite obviously a country girl.
-The smell of the rainy Roman air as we walked.
-Holding my boys' hands all the time
-The elevator for our apartment is pretty quaint.  It's wooden and has the double doors and the boys fight over whose turn it is to push the button.
-So apparently our apartment owner neglected to describe the laundry as a shared laundry.  I opened the washer to find someone else's sheets while our own unmentionables may have been lying in a pile in front of it ready to go in when we got back...
-As I write this there's a thunderstorm happening.  And it's pretty cool.
-Almost everywhere we go someone asks "quattro ragazzi?" and we get to say "si!"

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday - St. John Lateran, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and St. Peter's with the Papa

Today was intense.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually, parentally (word?).
But so many blessings and graces.

First of which, at least in the boys' eyes, was a subway ride to St. John Lateran...

Ha, look at this lady's expression.  Weirdo Americans.

Then we got to our first stop:  The Basilica of St. John Lateran, the oldest and most important church for us Catholics.

Could the sky be any bluer?  
The entrance was lined with people trying to sell me sunglasses despite the fact that I had a pair sitting squarely on my face.  There are people all over Rome selling things on the street - sunglasses, weird toys, Pope Francis bobble heads, clothes, scarves, some really pretty skirts that I may have to go back and check out...

I won't subject you to every single picture, and honestly, I've been pretty restrained trying to soak it in rather than worry about picture taking.  But there's still some I had to take :)

St. Andrew - I took this one and the following for two of our Godsons.  I'm sure they'll be impressed.  

St. Matthew
The 11 apostles plus Paul line the aisle of the church.  They are massive.

There is nowhere to look in this place that isn't stunningly beautiful.  As Brian said, you could take just a few square feet of this place and consider it a life's crowning artistic achievement.  Except I'm paraphrasing and it didn't sound as dorky when he said it.

I felt a little guilty taking this shot of the altar where Jesus was reposed for Good Friday but look at those little boys who went up all on their own to pray before Him.  My heart.

It is incredible to me how we participate in God's creative work by making these spectacular works of art for His glory.  I used to look caustically on things like this assuming them to be pretentious and gaudy.  Surely our Lord wouldn't be pleased with such displays...  How ridiculous!  What better thing can we use our artistic talent toward than beauty that draws our mind to Him Who is Beauty itself?  We were given all these resources to create beauty!  Beauty that isn't in someone's private parlor but is given to the whole world to appreciate.  What a gift this beauty and the people who create it are!

Just chillin' with our picnic lunch outside St. John's

I'm so intrigued by the Egyptian hieroglyphics on the obelisks.  I think it's so awesome that they were brought here from Egypt and the cross was put on top to claim the victory of Christ over all the false gods of the past.

This is Santa Scala, the Church of the Holy Steps, where the actual stairs are that Christ climbed in the praetorium when He was sentenced to death.  They were brought to Rome by St. Helena in the fourth century.  We were really hoping to "walk" the steps on our knees as pilgrims traditionally do (and that is the only way allowed up them) but because of Good Friday the wait was at least an hour and unfortunately, it wouldn't work.

I peeked inside the other door to snap this shot of the pilgrims waiting to go up.  You can't take pictures of the actual stairs.  It was powerful just seeing all these people waiting to pray their way up the holy stairs.

We went then to Santa Croce which was nearby.  You can't take pictures inside because you guys, do you know what they have here?  They have a piece of the actual cross, one of the nails, the inscription sign, and two of the purported thorns from the crown.  Of Jesus.  And we were there on Good Friday.  

I can't even describe it but I could have stayed there for hours.  It was interesting that there were hardly as many people here as there were at Santa Scala.  But there was a steady flow of people coming to venerate the relics and pray.  So beautiful.  There was also a copy of the Shroud of Turin that moved me to tears.  I just don't even know how to comprehend the privilege of being here on Good Friday and wish we could have stayed so much longer.  We stayed as long as we could, an hour or so, but we didn't want the kids disturbing the other people there so we pulled ourselves away.

We had to get back and change pretty quickly because we needed to get in line asap for the Good Friday service at St. Peter's.  We had tickets and showed up an hour and a half early and still the line wrapped several times inside the square.  We were pretty bummed that by the time we got to the front we figured there was no way we'd get a seat and just a little bit frustrated that they didn't even check for tickets when we had made sure to get them months ago.  And then do you know what happened?  
We finally got through security and followed the line of people certain we'd be standing in the back or something.  We were directed by the guards to the right of the basilica down this weird pathway next to it.  There was construction and I was kind of thinking that we were going to a basement or something to watch on a screen.  But we weren't.  They were leading us to the back entrance and when we walked in THIS was where we were sitting:

I don't even.
No zoom.  We were like five rows back and that is the main altar.  To the left in that red area with the white chair was where Pope Francis himself sat.

This was the view looking up.
Not even kidding.
Brian, John Paul, and I were stunned.  It was all so surreal.

AND not only did we get to sit there but before it started I got to go to Confession in St. Peter's on Good Friday.  There were priests all behind us hearing them in different languages.

I had no idea how long the service would be and it was almost two and a half hours.  The entire Gospel was chanted and was so beautiful but you know how long that Good Friday Gospel is, right?  It was really long and the kids began to get fidgety.  Luke had to be in the back for most of it.  But the "back" was still a pretty great place to be.  Above is when the bishops and cardinals went up to venerate the cross which was so moving.  It felt kind of inappropriate to me to take pictures during something like this but I felt like I had to so that I could remember and share.

Papa Francis 

We were able to receive the Eucharist for the second time at St. Peter's and then it was over.

Afterwards as we were leaving we were so close to everything.  I wasn't sure if we'd ever be able to see this again so I snapped a quick picture.

Directly in front of the altar looking down toward St. Peter's tomb.  Unbelievable.

Other Notes From Today:

-Jet lag is no joke.  Neither is traveling in a foreign country with four small children.
-The priests!!  So many priests and beautiful sisters everywhere!!  The majority of them are in their twenties and thirties.  You guys.  It's amazingly refreshing to see when we're warned so often about vocations.  It's going to be okay.    
-The humility I learn over and over again doing this mothering thing.  I am so weak.
-That when God is pouring down graces, there will be someone else seeking to defeat you. 
-David immediately recognizing an aqueduct at first sight.  I had no clue.
-Pope Francis looks sad.  Or like he is really uncomfortable with the attention he receives.  Then again, it is the Triduum and maybe he's just experiencing it deeply.
-The feeling of looking at the shroud.
-I'm pretty sure I've lost a few pounds in the past few days with these random meals we've been pulling together.  I think the boys have subsisted mainly on Joe's O's, bread, and various other carbs for three days now.
-To thank Lori a million times over for letting us use their amazing stroller.  Tripsaver.
-Luke being more excited to be on the "train" than by anything else.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday in Rome (We're Here!)

We're here!
It's been a crazy exhausting and awesome couple of days.  Our Wifi actually is okay but super slow to upload pics and these crazy Europeans and their wacko electrical systems are making computer charging a little weird so it's been hard to post anything.  But I shall soldier on in order to fill your feed with sites from our adventures.  And I can't edit any of the pics so you miss out on my super scary copyright.  Just promise you won't sell them to some Chinese company looking to turn my family trip photos in an advertisement and we should be good.

Fun times at the Toronto airport...

We survived the flight!  No major issues except two older boys who barely slept an hour or two. 

We got to the apartment before the doorman was around so we had to hang out in the lobby for an hour and I forced the kids to sit and play war rather than run around like hooligans in front of people's homes and make everyone hate the Americans before we had even gotten our bags in.

Then we got in, changed, blah, blah, blah...


Waiting in line for our tickets

Brian got to go up to the Bronze Doors to get them.

We decided to do the quickest of walk-throughs of the basilica since we were already there...

The incorrupt body of Blessed John XXIII
All of the intentions you've given me have been and continue to be in my prayers.

You know, just hanging out at St. Peter's...

Where Blessed John Paul II was shot.  

And pigeons are fun.

We slept poorly and then got up early for the Papal Chrism Mass.

Michael while we were waiting in line for the Mass.  Check out that gorgeous sky!

So. Many. Priests.  500?  More?  It was crazy and awesome.

Papa giving his homily.  I couldn't understand a word and need to look up what he actually said.

The chant was amazing.

The closing procession.  That's one of three huge urns holding the sacred oils.

Sister Nancy is holding Luke, this random Italian nun who was just the sweetest and wanted the "bambini" to be able to see the pope! we're pretty close, right?

Yep!  That's him!  A blurry but real Pope Francis.

He wasn't in the blessing mood I guess and was all about getting back.  But still!  So cool.

And Swiss guards are pretty sweet.

The boys outside of St. Peter's...very happy to be done with Mass, I think :)  They were super good (well, Luke not so much) but it was very very long.

And one with Luke looking...

The end for now...I have more pics but I want to get this up before the computer officially dies :)

Hope you're having a very very blessed Holy Thursday.
I'm praying for all of your intentions and thank you so much for your prayers for us!

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