Sunday, June 30, 2013

Newlyweds in Italy: Angelus and a Sunday Afternoon

View of Rome from the Janiculum
June 30, 1996.

After having glimpsed Pope John Paul II the previous day, we headed for St. Peter's again, for Mass and then out into the crowded square for the Sunday Angelus, which the Pope leads from the balcony window of the papal apartments. Here's what I wrote about that event, seventeen years ago, in my travel journal:

We went out into St. Peter's Square for the Sunday Angelus. I felt almost a physical hunger to see the Pope again (at whatever distance) and to pray with him. Deeper for me than anything else in this vast encounter between the Pope and his people is the simple gesture of praying the Angelus with him. In that moment, we are together with the Successor of St. Peter in a single action -- the highest and most intimate of all actions, the action of prayer. My own prayer is profoundly confirmed when it accompanies his.

This was anything but an ordinary honeymoon. It was a time of pilgrimage and blessing. It was also a time to revisit beloved ancient and beautiful places (for the first time together), and to explore and discover new things. And of course we had a lot of fun.

We spent the afternoon walking in the city. Of course, both of us being culture nerds, this was tremendous fun. In fact, my travel diary is full of aesthetic, architectural and historical observation and analysis... but these are all things we talked about and enjoyed together. And words came after vision. Eileen and I love being together and contemplating great and beautiful things. Perhaps that sounds hokey, but its true.

The church of Santa Maria in Cosmedian
It was a bright Sunday afternoon, so we got some panini (sandwiches) and walked up the Janiculum hill. From there we were able to take in one of Rome's fabulous city scapes. As anyone who has been to Rome knows, one can spend a lot of time just looking at the city from various vistas. What one sees is not just a pretty town; one sees the centuries of living, breathing history.

After this, we walked back down, across the Tiber island and into the wonderful Santa Maria in Cosmedian. We marveled together at the dark, ancient simplicity of this church, which is one of Eileen's favorites.

Don't tell a lie!
The famous "bocca della verita" is on the portico outside this church. There is an old tradition of putting your hand in its mouth to prove the truth of what you say, because the "mouth of truth" was said to bite the hand of anyone who told a lie. I know I hammed it up for a photograph here, but I don't know what's become of that picture. We're still trying to find the pictures.

Another important aspect of this adventure which both of us heartily enjoyed together, of course, was food. We hunted for the trattoria popular with the natives whenever possible, or a small restaurant in some corner of an alley.

According tho my travel diary, the day ended with a "remarkable salmon pasta." And plenty of good table wine, as I remember.