…of another kind:
As I mentioned, Wednesday night, I did an accidental Station Church type thing as I attempted to find out what was going on in churches in the center between 6 and 8. This was not something I planned, but something that struck me as interesting when I walked into a Holy Hour. Here’s how it went.
This was the evening I searched for and ultimately did find the Galleria Spada. I crossed the Ponte Sisto, walked a bit, and saw a church I hadn’t seen before on my right. Let’s go in.
Nice church. Not huge, but gorgeous, and very well maintained. Didn’t have a dusty feel about it at all. But what’s with all the altar cards? Every side altar, as well as the high altar, has a set of altar cards (for the Tridentine Mass). Also a row of big honkin’ candles on top of the altar. Like five feet tall candlesticks. Hmmm. Then I think, “Ah, this must be the FSSP parish!”
And of course it was -. As I left I studied the Mass schedule…ah, a 6:30 pm daily Mass.Well, maybe if I get through the Galleria, I’ll make it back for that. (What I should have been saying was, if I FIND the Galleria.)
Across the street, another church. Up the stairs. Inside, a monstrance with a Host on the altar. Silence. About 10 people, including a priest, sitting or kneeling in silent prayer. It was San Salvatore in Onda, where St. Vincent Pallotti’s body lies under the high altar.
I started thinking…what else is going on behind these doors, while the tourists walk by (lost), clutching their maps (but still lost) and the Romans themselves stroll by, arm in arm, heads bent together in close conversation, arms linked, smoke wafting from their cigarettes?
So after I was done with the Galleria, I set forth to find out. In San Andrea Del Valle, a rosary had started in a side chapel. A couple of priests were there and about 6 other men. All men, no women.
At Santissime Stimmate di San Francesco… around the corner from the Gesu, I walked into some kind of holy hour, I think. I am fairly sure that the Divine Praises were being prayed, and when that was finished, a priest began a talk. The place, I almost forgot to mention, was packed. Probably three hundred people. (I don’t know if it was a mission, if the priest was famous, or what).
I didn’t go to the Gesu, because I couldn’t see an open door, but looking later, I saw that they have a 6:30 pm Mass.
S. Mary Maddalena had Mass going on. About twenty people.
S. Maria Sopra Minerva had just finished Mass. Another church nearby – and I don’t remember what it was – had also just finished Mass, and a woman in the choir loft was singing Ave Maria. About fifteen people remained, listening.
And then up (and this is when I was really walking a ridiculous distance) to the Piazza di Popolo area, I saw a man rushing into one of the smaller churches that sit next to each other. I followed, and walked into the pure sound of chant. It was the end of the Eucharistic prayer, and two priests were concelebrating Mass, chanting much of it in Latin. After Communion, they chanted the Communion Antiphon, and then after Mass was over, they turned to face the image of Mary on the back wall to chant the Salve Regina. It was really lovely, and the church had probably a hundred and fifty people present. After Mass, a young woman got up to talk, but I don’t, you know, speak Italian, so there was no point in my staying to listen.
The next evening fits here too,even if it breaks the nice shape of the story,. That evening I went to Vespers at S. Maria in Trastevere with the Community of San’Egidio.At 8:30, the bells started ringing, and not solemnly and staidly. It was almost wild. Joyful. There were two books for the prayer, both of which were of no value to me – although near the end, the woman next to me showedme where to find the Psalm of the moment.
It was very simple – chanting of Psalms, a hymn or two, a Gospel reading at a homily. There was a small schola who lead beautifully, but everyone in the Church sang as well – perhaps about two hundred people, maybe more.The chant was in Italian, and it was not Gregorian – it was a vaguely contemporary, but still very organic sound that was marked by an ebb and flow, a swelling of sound that was quite moving.
The church was pretty full – perhaps two or three hundred present. I wasn’t counting, and folks did keep streaming in almost to the end.
So what to do during those early evening hours in Rome? You could, logically enough, prepare for dinner.
Or you could open a different door and prepare for… Dinner.