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!

Sunday, November 27

What a way to start Advent!

Yes, yet again I come back to you after even more wonderful and Providential experiences... First though, I hope everyone's Advent wreaths are in place and on fire, because, hey, it's now four weeks to Christmas! Here, in late afternoon on the 1st Sunday of Advent right now we have no snow, but we do have a regular little hail storm going on here, with pitiful little hunks of dirty ice pattering down on the windows of the computer room. If you are in a place knee-deep in the REAL white stuff, go throw a snowball for us...

Ok, so here's the deal - today being the first Sunday in Advent means that yesterday evening there was the traditional 1st Sunday Vespers for Advent prayers in St. Peter's Basilica with the Holy Father. Many of the usual suspects could be seen there, including four of our seminarians, two of us girls, Fr. Carola, a French Jesuit priest friend of Fr. Carola's, and two priests from the NAC that we ran into in the line outside.

Once again Fr. Carola proved to be a very Providential selection as our chaplain, as yet another demonstration of "how many people does this guy KNOW in Rome?" took place in order to keep all of our group together. You see, when we first got in we were a largish group of guys in clerics and two girls. The security guards were directing all the priests and seminarians to sit in a section very close to the Holy Father - and so suddenly we girls were separated from the others. We didn't really mind, and actually I thought perhaps the priests would be separated from us anyway, though I hadn't expected the seminarians to go too. Lo and behold, after we found a couple of seats in the general section suddenly Fr. Carola's head pops up on our left and beckons us to go with him... after about 10 minutes of playing "let us through because so-and-so said so" with random members of the different Vatican security forces guarding the entries into the seating sections, we finally rejoined the rest of the group. Turns out that after Fr. Carola realized that the section they were all in was NOT just for clerics, he happened to meet up with a couple he knew, and they happened to know one of the guards well, and the guard was able to give information on how to bring back the lost sheep of the flock (us). Whew.

Basically what all that meant to say was... due to an amazing array of circumstances we all got really good seats for Vespers 35 feet from the Pope!

Vespers itself was beautiful, though it was odd in one way - usually at the Vatican when they offer Vespers on Sundays and feast days they are entirely in Latin. For this Vespers service, a PAPAL Vespers service, for some reason they used mostly Italian (though Latin was certainly used as well)... We were on the north side of the papal altar, so we were also in a good spot to hear the choir -- wow! The chanting of the psalms (in Italian) and of the Magnificat and Pater Noster (Latin) were gorgeous, because we were able to hear the choir themselves instead of the speakers. They concluded Vespers with the singing of the Alma Redemptoris Mater, also very beautiful. I did take some short video of Vespers too, trying out the feature on my camera that I always forget it has. If I can find some server space somewhere I will post that up too, particularly the Magnificat one with the Pope incensing the high altar.

The service was very moving of course, and a splendid way to begin the new Catholic year!

Oh yeah, and going back to that hail - last night after Vespers Fr. Carola took us over to a place nearby for some coffee and hot chocolate, and when we sat down it starting just pouring hail outside, little stuff just like it's doing now, but a lot more of it. Well, one of the seminarians who likes to ask such questions asked Fr. Carola "how do you say 'hail' in Latin?" Fr. Carola just looked at him and smoothly said "Ave. Ave Maria!" :)

More later, on our adventures today at the Vatican Museums, and on the safe arrival of the rector of the SJV seminary who's checking on the program here in Rome...


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