I have pretty well settled into Rome. I am living with thirty-two other English-speaking priests in a remodeled convent on the grounds of the North American College (the American seminary). While I wasn’t lucky enough to be assigned a room with balcony, I have a clear view of St. Peter’s Basilica, just a few blocks away. The living conditions are quite good and the food is excellent.
I live with a really neat bunch of men. Most of them are about my age and several of them have been heavily involved diocesan administration. They, by the way, are the ones who seem to happiest to be on sabbatical. One of the things that most impresses me about these men is the range and depth of their experiences. We haven’t exactly talked about any of the “hot button” issues (most of us, I suspect, need a vacation from those discussions), but no one strikes me as particularly off to the right or off to the left. By and large, they strike me as a group of very solid people who are trying to find out where the center is in today’s church, believing that in the church, as in any society or corporate body, the center really does have to hold. This importance of holding the center leaped out at me Friday morning when we all concelebrated mass at the tomb of St. Peter.
There are three seminarians from our archdiocesan church who are in formation at the North American College. Doug Marcotte and Martin Rodriguez are fourth year deacons who will be ordained to the priesthood next summer. The other seminarian is Tony Hollowell, who is a first year student. I have known Tony since the mid-1990s when I was pastor at Nativity and he was a student in the parish school. He later became captain of the Roncalli football team and went on to graduate from Notre Dame. Tony will do just fine
Saturday I ventured off the tourist track and spent the afternoon at Tre Fontane where, according to tradition, St. Paul was martyred. This was my third visit to Tre Fontane. Each time I have been moved by a small, stone tablet that reads: “This path leads to the Church of the Martyrdom of St. Paul. In this place, according to tradition, Paul of Tarsus gave his life for Jesus Christ in the year 67 AD. Silence, please.”
Yesterday I took the train up to Bologna, more out of curiosity than anything else. What a nice surprise! Bologna is a great place. The Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Petronius both deserve four stars. For me, however, the highlight of Bologna was a complex of four, interconnected twelfth century churches that are known simply as the “Churches of San Stephano.”
I have probably lost a few pounds over these last three weeks, because when I am on the road I tend to survive on whatever cheese, bread and wine I can find at supermarkets and convenience stories. I have not run since August 20.There is, however, a nice running track at the North American College and later this afternoon I plan to put in a couple of miles.