March 15, 2013
The Back Way Home
Christian Life Is All about Relationships
Longtime friends Maria and Monsignor Irwin at her religious goods shop.
It would drive my mother crazy. I would walk straight home from school, change into chinos, and do homework. My brother Bob would take the back way home and the walk was twice as long. Delayed arrival and thus delayed homework. But Bob knew every person en route and stopped to talk to them. Like my Dad would.
Earlier this week, after the Mass for the opening of the conclave I decided I would not walk straight to the apartment but take the back way home. First stop, Maria's. She is a 70-something friend from 35 years ago. She runs a hole-in-the wall religious goods store located between the Jesuit Curia and St. Peter's Basilica. The store has many of the same things that other such places have.
But she does excellent calligraphy on the papal blessings she secures for you. In fact, she does all the calligraphy for the diplomas granted by the Pontifical Gregorian University here. No computer-generated names here! Maria had suffered a serious fall last November and only returned to work in mid-January. Great to see her looking so well. What about blessings during a sede vacante? They pile up. The calligraphy is perfect. On that day, they awaited the picture of the new Pope!
My next stop was the Borgo Pio. I was there the day before, doing a walking-and-talking CNN interview, and some of my friends along the way took note. I walked back the next day to thank them for their waves. This time I was wearing my cassock, something I rarely do, except in Rome. I stopped by a favorite restaurant and spoke with the owner and his sister. I had had dinner there a week before with a friend and wanted to thank them for the bottle of excellent red wine they gave us. No charge. Why? My friend was leaving after a week's vacation and they knew it. Buon viaggio. See you next time! (He loved the carbonara.)
|Monsignor Irwin at a favorite restaurant with the owner and his sister.|
|The barbershop where Monsignor Irwin gets his hair cut in Rome.|
My next stop was Andrea's newly renovated barber shop. Whenever I get a (half of a) haircut (the joys of balding!), I go to Andrea's. I did so as soon as I arrived in January and then again last week. But at that time Andrea was using space in the hairdresser's shop across from the hotel. This was to allow for the complete renovation to his place. I am astounded at the speed with which the renovation took place! I stopped by and took a photo. No haircut needed that day. The joys of balding.
I then went to the butcher's (macelleria) to buy two veal cutlets. I was cooking dinner in for a friend. Mauro the butcher sliced the veal paper thin. No slicer. No meat under cellophane. No styrofoam packaging. The real deal. He added some homemade pasta to my bag and told me not to cook it too long. He asked after the hotel owner. He has known her since they were teenagers!
I walked back to the apartment, changed, and sat down to say my prayers. The College of Cardinals met that afternoon in conclave. They would elect Pope Francis. Prayers, prayers, prayers.
I thought about the fact that the way home after Mass I took the back way. Funny. In my childhood, I would walk straight home; Bob took his time. That day I took my time and greeted many people I know here and whom I dearly love. Prayers for them. And prayers of gratitude.
In the end, the Christian life is all about love and relationships. "Do you love me" was Jesus' question to St. Peter at the end of the Gospel of John. At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, the question is when did you see me hungry, imprisoned, naked, or in need. "Love one another as I have loved you" is the plot.
One of the marks of the Catholic Church is that we are in this together. One, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. As the Sondheim lyric notes, "No one is alone."
It is all about relationships. Rome is a town of relationships.
Especially when you take the back way home.