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, April 9

Palm Sunday 2006

Almighty God, we pray you bless these branches and make them holy. Today we joyfully acclaim Jesus our Messiah and King. May we reach one day the happiness of the new and everlasting Jerusalem by faithfully following him who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

We have made it to the homestretch - Palm Sunday has come and we now enter into the Holiest of weeks. For us here in Rome, who were able to go to St. Peter's for Mass, it was an amazing experience. I can honestly say that I have never experienced a liturgy that had so many elements too it, everything from the sheer composition of the crowd to the actual way the Mass was liturgically celebrated. It had something for everyone, yet it all fit together (unlike some of those other "composite" Masses that we have all experienced...).

For starters, it was not only Palm Sunday, but also the concluding celebration for this year's World Youth Day, and a Mass which included the transferring of the WYD cross and icon to the Australians by the Germans (speaking from WYD Cologne experience... I presume they were a bit glad to hand it off to somebody else!). So the whole square was utterly packed with not only "normal" Italians and pilgrims, but gadzillions of youth groups. It really did feel like WYD here!

Ok - and then of course the primary reason for the day was Palm Sunday. I will never go into my home parish and just pick up a meager single palm frond the same way again - just wait until you see these photos! We're not talking fronds, and we're not even talking palms, we're talking olive branches here people! When we first made the mad rush to get good seats, we missed out on getting our branches, so Jason and I had to make the trek back out of the area and out to the main square entrance to find some for our area. Later on, there suddenly appeared guys with massive bundles of fresh-cut olive branches going up and down the center aisle - we suddenly found ourselves with sweet-smelling olive branches under our feet and bristling all over the Square.

Hmmm... I have lots more to say about this Mass, but I guess it might be better to put it with the photos. So I'll hold off for now.

After the Mass, we met up with our in-house UST professor and his family for a fabulous lunch at Il Matriciana, a wonderful place to eat at near the Vatican.

Then - one of the coolest things ever, we went to an amazing new movie, "Into Great Silence" that you have to see! (But for most of you, first you'll have to get it into America somehow... start calling theaters now!). It is basically, to put it bluntly, a 3 hour retreat experience, connecting you in an amazing way with the life of the Carthusian monks. It is "silent" in that there is no soundtrack music, no dialogue, no script - it is quite simply living as the monks live. Amazing. It is a surprise huge hit in Europe I guess, and when we went to the theater near us for the 3:30 showing the theater was actually quite full (and it has been playing here a couple of weeks).

The Italians did pretty good too, I must say, considering how foreign the idea of watching silence must be to the modern world. There was some humor at the beginning, as there was some random chatter around the theater, with answering SSSSSSSSSHHHH, Silenzio! noises that just made it worse for a bit. (the funniest part was a brief Italian conversation between a couple of women - after one was talking really loudly she got a loud shushing, then she hollered something like, "why do you care, there's nothing to hear!", with response "that's the point!" and another response "go home and watch it on television then!" - hilarious!) Anyway, people mostly settled down and seemed really intent on what was going on.

Not only from a faith perspective, but also from an artistic perspective the film is also gorgeous. I have never heard of the filmmaker before, but you can tell that he threw his whole heart into this project, really entering into the prayer of the monks right along with them. For example, there are a few scenes that are of the monks rising in the middle of the night to chant the Liturgy of the Hours, and frequently the fade-out is of their reading lights turning off (to help them see those massive old chantbooks!) and leaving us with nothing to see in the chapel but the flicker of the sanctuary lamp and the sound of Latin. Wow. And wait until you see that Eucharistic procession! Oh man, I could go on about this movie forever, it made me want to be a monk too (ok, there are more than a few problems with this idea... :).

Suffice it to say that you HAVE to experience this movie. I really haven't been as moved by a movie since the Passion of the Christ a few years ago. Do everything you can to get it shown in your area, call the theaters, mail them, e-mail friends, plug it with anyone you know in the movie release industry... You get the idea.

So that was my day - I pray that you too received countless blessings today, as we enter into Holy Week! The next time I will see you I'll be able to sing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today". Photos, coming up next...


  • At 12:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Mary,
    This is Marc from the Cathedral in St. Paul. I have been emailing people about "into great silence" to try to gain support to have it released here in MN and the USA. I have also contacted the director's office for the film they say that it should be released soon in the US. They told me to email them back in a little while for an update. I looked it up on germany and it said it will be released on DVD in May this year. There are DVD palyers in america that are very inexpensive that you can watch it on that can pay PAL format. Make sure everyone emails their lists to have everyone try to get this movie in the theaters.

    Take care and your blog is a window into the vatican!! It is awesome!


  • At 12:59 AM, Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said…

    A blessed Holy Week to you too! Oh, I do so hope 'The Grosse Stille' is screened in the UK! I'm really looking forward to seeing and experiencing it!

  • At 1:28 PM, Anonymous ann said…

    I saw the movie about 1 1/2 months ago. I could never be sure if the blurry cuts were intentional or required because of the lighting conditions.

    I also thought it rather a pity that with the focus on the natural change of seasons, that I had no real sense of where in the liturgical year we were. I would have appreciated more variety in the quotations used throughout the film as well.

    I went into the film with a lot of questions that weren't answered for me. All in all, a mixed review.

  • At 5:50 PM, Blogger mgibson said…

    While I agree with you that at times I felt that the seasonal change was emphasized too much to the detriment of the liturgical calendar, after reflection I have decided that the seasonal aspect is more fitting to the purpose of the film. Look at it this way - the film is meant to show us, nay, allow us to enter into the contemplative lifestyle of the monks. While, as Christians and particularly perhaps as Catholics, we cannot imagine this as being separated from the liturgical seasons, for the wider audience there is not an understanding of the full meaning of the liturgical calendar. For the general public to understand more about what it is like to BE a monk, they need to see the simplicity of the life, the freedom that the routine of prayer gives, the way that all of life's moments enter into the one single moment of eternity in Christ, season after season. It is easier for us to grasp this. The emphasis on the Eucharist is clear, the emphasis on the continual Real Presence among us, waiting, is shown to be the center of the life. And in the Eucharist are all the liturgical seasons, in a very real sense.

    Another thing that might be worth considering is the fact that I do not know how different the monastery of Carthusians really LOOKS during the different seasons - somehow I don't think they are going to have color-coded felt banners lying about, or many of the other "signs" of the liturgical season that are evident in our parishes. We saw a Eucharistic procession (Corpus Christi?), I'm sure they do other processions during the year, and of course the various Masses for the seasons... But to keep showing Mass after Mass, liturgy after liturgy, would really take time away from being able to show the completeness of the monastic life. Also, it seemed to me that most of the liturgy we saw was Night prayer, when the filming would be most inobtrusive - not much during daylight hours. And, only one scene from a regular conventual Mass, and that from the balcony.

    This is kind of a jumbled post, sorry, I don't have enough time to think about this right now.

    Suffice it to say that I see some of your concerns, but not all of them. Artistically, I thought the blurred images and the clear ones were fitting to the type of documentary this is meant to be. But - de gustibus.

    I don't think it's a bad thing to have questions after viewing it either, the movie is meant to give you a glimpse of the life, not give you the life! The website gives you links to further information on the Carthusian order and such - I suggest you start there and keep searching for the answers you seek!

    God bless, everyone!


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