The Roamin' Roman

Benvenuto! You have happened upon the blog of a wandering Catholic American college student studying for a year in Rome, the Eternal City. You will find here my pontifications, ruminations, reflections, images, and ponderings on my life in Rome. Ciao!

Wednesday, November 23

Visiting St. Cecilia

The feast of St. Cecilia was yesterday, as many of you might have been aware - and as many of you might know, Cecilia's tomb is here in Rome, at a church bearing her name (built over what was once her home in the 2nd century AD!). Here in Rome, the saints' feast days are a BIG DEAL, since, after all, quite a lot of saints are actually still here (their mortal remains anyway). The devotion to the saints is quite high here, in regard to going on mini-pilgrimage to visit the church of the "saint of the day" (which, thus, often means literally going to visit the tomb of the saint too). Today, for instance, was the feast of St. Clement (but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to get to that Basilica today - even in Rome you can miss a few!) and I'm sure there were throngs of folks going to pray at his tomb and attend Mass there.

But anyway. Back to St. Cecilia and yesterday. Well, we found out that there would be a big "high Mass" at the church of St. Cecila in the evening, and so the four of us girls decided to make an evening of it and go there, and then out to dinner. (The guys were having one of their "seminarian nights", so they were doing their own thing with Fr. Carola instead - personally I think they all should have come with us, 'cause they missed a great celebration of an awesome saint!) We got to St. Cecilia's and it was amazing - if you have been here, you know how the layout of the grounds are, you kind of "sneak up" onto the church which is tucked away in the midst of tiny narrow sidestreets in a very Roman part of town (ie, not very touristy). Well, you first go into this enormous opening courtyard with a fountain in the front - our first clue that this was going to be huge was the red draping and special lighting that illuminated the front courtyard... and you could see through the church doors that even though we were at least a half hour early there were already no seats left!

We went in, and we could not believe the beauty of the place, with red draping (looked very old and well-made) over all the side altars and the sanctuary, and beautiful old candelabras lit up along the sanctuary rail... and the beautiful famous statue of the body of St. Cecilia under the high altar all lit up and more lovely looking than I'd see it before (the tomb itself is not visible from above, but is in the crypt beneath the sanctuary, placed directly under the high altar). With the dim lighting and the sounds of the choir practicing (actually the Sistine chapel choir, the papal choir) the mood here was of great anticipation, like Christmas Eve in a sense. We had visited this church before, a few weeks ago, and the difference in the "personality" of the place was very distinct! If you've ever been here before, it looked like it did, but deeper, richer in spirit. I can't explain it any better than that, sorry.

The Mass itself was very beautiful, with a wonderful combination of Italian (the vernacular here of course!) and Latin, with many parts of the Mass sung/chanted (they even chanted the Gospel in Italian! Hadn't heard that done before, in Latin yes, vernacular no!). The only weird thing (and it's kind of a liturgical nit-pick) is that they chose to use the "quickie consecration", Eucharistic Prayer II, instead of the Roman Canon, which is weird not only because it was a high Mass that lasted a good two hours anyway (so why bother trying to save a few seconds in the most important prayer of the Church?), but because it was a high Feastday Mass for a saint, in her own church, at her own tomb, and in which the saint in question is actually NAMED in the Roman Canon! Why on earth did they not use the Roman Canon? That does kind of irk me, I admit it... Oh well.

Anyway, nit-picks aside, the Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect for the Vatican Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith, and he celebrated the liturgy beautifully. His homily especially sounded amazing, from what little bits of Italian I could translate from it! :) Basically I think he was imploring us to "sing our song" of life to God in full, as St. Cecilia did, even to the shedding of our blood, and exhorting us to be witnesses to God's divine love in everything we do, from the ordinary to the extraordinary. I wish I could find the homily online, it would be wonderful to read it.

After Mass, we found the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (the "Nashville Dominicans", who are studying here in Rome with us at the Angelicum (they got great front-row seating for the Mass... but then, they got here WAAAAAY before we did! :), it was wonderful to be able to share the moment with them, on their patronal feast day! What joy! Hopefully one of these days I will be able to get one of the photos of them up here. God love them and keep them close to His heart, through the intercession of Blessed Mary, St. Dominic, and St. Cecila.

Then, we girls had a bit of a girls' night, we found an amazing restaurant not too far from the church, had some of the best tortellini alla Bologna I've ever eaten, and then found an amazing gelato place on the way back to the tram. All in all a splendid day! I hope the feastday was a blessed one for you all too.

St. Cecilia (and St. Clement), ora pro nobis!


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