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!

Saturday, December 3

The Way of the Cross

This may be more of a "Lent" topic than an Advent one, but at the same time of course we must realize that the two cannot really be separated - the intersection of the Cross is at the heart of eternity for us, and Advent leads us to Lent which leads to the Cross, which in turns leads us back into Advent and the preparation for the Lord's return in glory.

Thus, I find it very fitting that I was caught with a deep desire this past week to go on a pilgrimage centered on the Cross. It started with the realization that I had brought a copy of Evelyn Waugh's Helena with me here to Rome... I had read it last year for the first time, and loved it a great deal. So, seeing it on my bookshelf here, I pulled it down and spent the spare moments of my week re-reading Waugh's tale of St. Helana's life and her fulfillment of the humble vocation God gave her of finding the True Cross, under the backdrop of the drama of her life as the mother of the emperor Constantine.

One of my favorite lines in the book is in this dialogue between Helena and Pope Sylvester:

"But how do you he doesn't want us to have it--the cross, I mean? I bet he's just waiting for one of us to go and find it--just at this moment when it's most needed. Just at this moment when everyone is forgetting it and chattering about the hypostatic union, there's a solid chunk of wood waiting for them to have their silly heads knocked against. I'm going off to find it."

And so she did - and as I finished the book on Friday afternoon, I realized that I had not gone to Mass yet, and then as I wondered where to go and what times Masses are at the various churches around, I realized that I had an opportunity to go directly from teh book to the reality - here in Rome St. Helena, as empress, ordered the construction of the church of Santa Croce to house the relics she found of the Cross. I've been there before, a few times, and I have even mentioned it on the blog before. But I've never really gone there with this definite pilgrimage goal in mind.

I made it to Santa Croce early, and was able to pray the Way of the Cross before the Cross itself - a very moving experience in itself. The Mass was beautiful, as it was a First Friday they had Adoration and celebrated Mass in the upper church instead of the lower chapel. It was a very special evening for me, that I can't even begin to describe here.

The pilgrimage doesn't end there (though, yes, most fittingly it should have I guess). I realized this morning that I had never gone to the church where St. Helena is buried, at Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Today, I took some time this morning after Mass here at the house to make another pilgrimage, to the tomb of Helena herself, to offer some prayers of thanksgiving and some prayers of intercession - that as she was able to, by the grace of God, remind the world of the solidity and reality of the Cross, that she would now also intercede for us, you and me, to help us move from the piece of wood to the meaning of the Cross.

Only in Rome! Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!


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