Today didn’t start off as planned. That’s because late yesterday afternoon I began feeling distinctly unwell, and the situation didn’t improve much overnight. I think it might have been the hamburger I had for lunch in Firenze yesterday that did it.
All of which meant that today, instead of joining my fellow intrepid travellers on the planned tour of Benedictine sites, including the experience of travelling on the autostradas, I remained behind in Rome, spending the overwhelming majority of the day in the tiny apartment.
You should have no fear, gentle reader, the situation is much improved as I write the contribution, and tomorrow should see me fitting fight again and ready to sally forth to take on whatever the day has in store for the intrepid travellers.
Of course, once I recovered myself by late morning (I’ll spare you the details of how that came about!), I did think I should leave the apartment, if only for a little while, to a) get some fresh air, and b) perhaps have something to eat. As it turns out, there were three things that I would like to mention about today.
Firstly, since it’s only a few blocks away, I paid a return visit to Chiesa di Sant’ Alfonso di Ligouri that we had visited on our first afternoon in Rome. This is the church that houses the original Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The reason for my visit today was to bring to a successful conclusion the ‘secret mission’ that I had been entrusted with while here in Rome. To those who need to know, I would like to report: Mission Accomplished.
Since I had ventured out in the relative warmth of the day (it was a whole 8 degrees by this stage, pushing 9!) I decided that I might try to squeeze in one more thing from my personal ‘bucket list’ in the short time I had allowed myself to be out of the apartment. To that end, the second thing I should like to mention about today was the finding and visiting of the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Vallicella, also known more popularly as the Chiesa Nuova.
Why this particular church of all the churches in Rome? It’s a very simple answer.
The Chiesa Nuova is the principal church of the Rome Congregation of the Oratory, founded by St Philip Neri is 1561. The headquarters of the Roman Oratory are, in fact, right next door to the church. For many years, I have had a devotion to St Philip Neri, whose life story and his devotion to God, the Mission, and the Church have been sources of inspiration for my own ministry. I was presented with an original (proto)icon of St Philip Neri as an ordination gift.
The reason for the visit to the Chiesa Nuova is, therefore, a simple one: Philip is buried there.
Today, I had the opportunity to pray before the tomb of the saint who has inspired me for many years. It was the fulfilment of a long-held desire. And as I sat and knelt there in prayer before the tomb of St Philip Neri, entrusting to his intercession prayers for my loved ones who have died, the loved ones who are my family and friends, and many other cares and concerns, I felt a profound sense of peace and contentment with my life and with my ministry.
There, before the tomb of the one who has inspired me so much already, there was more inspiration that will, I pray, carry me forward for many years to come. It was a true blessing.
Having tarried in prayer so long in the Chiesa Nuova, I didn’t feel like walking back to the apartment. And since there was a taxi stand outside the church, I decided to splurge on a taxi back towards Roma Termini. Which brings me to the third thing I would like to mention.
Roman traffic and motorists have a certain reputation that precedes them. And my brief experience of walking around the streets since arriving in Rome (and even in Firenze yesterday) would seem to suggest that the reputation is well deserved. Travelling in the taxi the short distance today removed any doubt. It wasn’t that it was unsafe, or that the taxi driver didn’t drive safely, it’s just that there appears to be in Roman drivers a very loose association with traffic rules, road markings, and other general things that we Australians take for granted when driving on our roads.
Australians generally expect themselves and other drivers to abide the enacted road rules, with the threat of enforcement by the various police agencies if too many people decide they don’t want to play by the rules. Not so in Rome: the police actively participate in the same loose association with the road rules as their fellow motorists.
And yet, the system works. Everyone seems to know exactly which rule is not being followed, and there is a large amount of hospitality shown between motorists. There may be a lot of traffic, and it may appear to flow chaotically, but it certainly flows.
The good news is that the taxi ride ended without incident, and I ended up back at the apartment just over the short time I had allowed myself to be outside.
And thus, dear reader, ends this particular day, and this particular entry.