March 22, 2013
A Roman Spring
Gathering in the Lord’s Name
Redbud trees await installation at St. Peter’s Square.
In talking to many Roman friends we agreed that October was our favorite weather month here. The heat of the summer is over, but the long evenings continue; suppers al fresco are de rigeur.
But a Roman spring is nothing to sneeze at (although some of us have to — with dreaded allergies!). A small price to pay for scarf-less days, jackets rather than wool coats, and carrying the necessary weather weapon — the umbrella — less and less. When does that start? In Rome it all depends on the year, the amount of rainfall, etc. But on the calendar, spring began on March 20. The next day was spectacularly sunny, cooler earlier on, but then in the mid sixties! The Romans love it. One told me that yesterday was really the start of the prelude to spring. And that this year as a season it will be here sooner than usual. I hope so!
I walked past St. Peter's Square this morning. Gardeners were installing (literally) some olive and redbud trees in the center of the square, where two days earlier the crowds were filling the inauguration Mass for Pope Francis. It seems that for some years such trees are a temporary decoration for Holy Week in Rome.
Just beyond the trees is where the live television coverage of the inauguration Mass took place. Today, not a reporter or camera in sight. Then, each station had about a six-square-foot spot to place cameras, producers, and commentators.
|Monsignor Irwin with CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman.|
|The cloister at Sant'Anselmo, the international Benedictine university in Rome.|
|Framed in palm trees, a view of St. Peter’s Basilica from Sant'Anselmo.|
We began the CNN coverage at 8 a.m. local time and ended at 11:30. CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman and I did our best from there along with others near Castel Sant’Angelo and the anchors from Atlanta and London. Sometimes it was not easy to figure out what show you were on. (Don't ever trust a TV producer who promises coffee, water, and food on site. Then again, at 300,000 plus people, it was a function of numbers, not her fault.)
Lots of new things introduced into the Mass piqued my interest. (Liturgists are incorrigible!) That concern for creation and the environment was a major theme in the homily was important to me as my recent research has been on relating ecology to liturgy and environmental concerns to the sacraments. I look forward to seeing how the Pope furthers and promotes these insights.
Yesterday I spent part of my time back at Sant'Anselmo, the international Benedictine university, for the Feast of the Solemnity of the Passing of St. Benedict. As the Abbot Primate noted in his pre-lunch remarks, this is a familial celebration as opposed to the Feast of St. Benedict on July 11th. (Nothing like two feasts for Benedict. Sure took the punch out of Lent!)
Archbishop Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the main celebrant and homilist. I met him at the luncheon afterward and he sent greetings to my colleagues in the School of Theology and Religious Studies. He said he would very much like to give a talk at CUA, just having given one last February at Notre Dame, followed by a seminar for Notre Dame's theology department faculty. Even though I am the former dean of theology and religious studies (the only thing better than being the dean is being the former dean!), I dared to extend that invitation.
Over the post-pranzo coffee I learned that the Holy Father will celebrate the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday night at a prison for juvenile offenders. This goes back to his custom in Buenos Aires, where he would visit a hospital or prison on Holy Thursday and wash feet. Sounds like a springtime for the papal liturgy this year. Why? What you do for the least you do to me. And we are in this together.
If we live in isolation, whose feet will we wash?
If we live in isolation, whose burdens will we help bear?
If we live in isolation, whose crosses can we help carry?
If we live in isolation, whose wounds will we dress?
If we live in isolation, whose tears will we dry?
If we live in isolation, where will there be twos and threes gathered in the Lord's name?
I will spend Holy Week between St. Peter's Square with my students (Palm and Easter Sundays) and the sacred Triduum at Sant'Anselmo, spending much of those days in prayer. This is a luxury I have never experienced in my 42 years of ordination. It is literally once in a lifetime. I was always in a parish and gratefully so. But when you are my age (was 60 really the new 40?), you know that you are on the back six (not the back nine) so I need to do it now.
I sense springtime in the Roman weather and in the Roman Catholic Church under a new Holy Father. But my sense is that, like the weather, the spring in the Church will be some time in coming, with rains and storms in store for the Holy Father. What we have seen thus far is Act One. What will be of equal (more?) importance is Act Two when he makes personnel changes at every level. A much-needed Roman spring I would say.
I was in the piazza for the announcement of Pope Francis. I was also in the piazza for the announcement of Pope John Paul II. That was a late October evening, my favorite month in Rome, at least until now!
This has been quite a pre-spring in Rome this year. How could I have ever imagined when flying across the Atlantic on New Year's night? A Pope resigning and a Latin American, Jesuit Pope elected! What a time!
Signing off from Rome. Dispatches from the Conclave are over. Time for other more important things to keep the University website fresh. My patron saint is St. John the Baptist. He said, "I must decrease." My time to do that is now. Happy spring.
Many Easter blessings,