So after our long day in the sun at the vineyard yesterday, I was tired, but still hung out with some friends last night. Of course, this means I sacrificed some of my hours of sleep, but I was still able to wake up at 6am for a 7:30 mass.
It was important that I didn’t sleep in for this one, because earlier in the week, I got a message from my friend Joe, saying, “Hello y’all, Fr. Pius just emailed me back saying he can celebrate Mass for us in St. Peter’s this Saturday at 7:30 (I know its early) and he’ll even let me be an altar server!!!! Also, he said we can all go out to breakfast after if we want. Are y’all down?!” Um, yes?! Fr. Pius had studied with some of my favorite priests at school, and he was just like them personality wise. He is currently studying, and he is residing at The Church of San Clemente. The Dominicans are fun people, and most people don’t understand how down to earth and personable these Fathers can be until you either attend Providence College or get to know a Dominican.
Side story: Fr. Pius studied with Fr. Cuddy, from PC. My friend Liz, who is abroad with me, told us a story that she was giving a tour of school this summer on a cloudy day, so she wore a poncho. Of course, going in and out of buildings, she didn’t want to take it on and off. Now, Father Cuddy had been walking around campus and passed the tour several times, and made fun of Liz wearing her poncho inside. If you’ve ever been on our campus, in the student center, Dunkin Donuts is on the below the floor where one would enter the building, and therefore, there are several railings/paths that overlook this area from upstairs. So at the end of her tour by Dunkin, she felt drops of water… and it was Father Cuddy standing upstairs, pouring drops of water from a water bottle on her for wearing her poncho inside. Her tour loved it, but that’s a story that definitely encompasses some of the personality of the Dominicans on campus.
Anyhow, we met Father Pius at the Obelisk in St. Peter’s Square this morning. The sun was still rising, and while St. Peter’s Square was in shadow, light shone on the Vatican from down the street leading to St. Peter’s (which we found out was a Mussolini creation, in an attempt to modernize things). We waited for a little while in line to enter the Basilica, while Fr. Pius was able to enter through a side entrance. This was my first time inside St. Peters, and it was amazing. The mosaics were breathtaking and the building was huge. Like most Basilicas, there were several different altars to the left and right of the nave, with brilliant mosaics over them. We walked over to the Sacristy, where Joe and Fr. Pius prepared for mass. They came out and were able to go through a small gate (again, this was in the main part of the Basilica, but it was just blocked off because mass was going on as well). At first we were stopped, but the 5 of us were eventually able to follow them to one of the alters to the left of where the pope would give mass (maybe in the North Transept? I’m not positive, but it was close.) Fr. Pius told us just to come stand by the altar, where Joe was now on, so we could hear him (he was only giving mass to the 6 of us, plus an older man who showed up). We were being given a personal mass in St. Peter’s. (Not gonna lie, when your voice isn’t being blended into a congregation, it’s amazing to see how much of the mass you remember the words to… and how your singing voice is… but luckily, I did not find myself lost and realized that I know the words of the “newly” translated mass better than I expected myself to). In his homily, he reminded us that we weren’t just studying there, but we were on a pilgrimage, which is defined as leaving home and comfort zones to find a greater truth. And even through our studies, both educational and extracurricular, we’re finding that, especially here in Rome. Being that we were the only ones at mass and we were lined up (now kneeling for the consecration) in front of the altar, we also received communion with our tongues, which was a first. Just something different that I felt the need to point out. Anyhow, the mass was very nice and really reminded me of mass back at school. Afterwards, we walked around the Basilica a little bit, saw the Pieta, and was explained some of the significance of the statues and mosaics of the church. (Ex: Underneath the Window of the Holy Spirit behind the altar, a chair (supported by the 4 doctors of the church) was displayed for St. Peter. The latin word for “chair” is “Cathedra,” which is where “Cathedral” comes from. It’s made of gold, and is meant to symbolize St. Peter’s throne in the church. Chairs symbolized teachers, where they would sit, and where people would gather at their feet to listen.
After mass, Fr. Pius took us to breakfast. We all talked for a while, and upon receiving the receipt from the bill, he pulled out a greeting card and a pen, wrote, “Father Cuddy- Thanks for breakfast!” and we all signed our names, inserted the receipt into the card, and addressed the envelope. We dropped it in the Vatican City Post Office on the way back.
We had to work our way to the Pantheon to get tickets for a soccer game (which we decided to postpone upon realizing that the affordable tickets were sold out), so Fr. Pius walked us over, pointed out some things along the way (Castel San’Angelo and why it is named such, where St. Catherine of Siena’s body is buried, the theatre in which her house used to be located, the habit store that makes the Pope’s habit, etc.) which was nice of him.
He parted with us when we stopped our tour and got gelato. It was cool to get a tour of the city from a different perspective, especially from someone who not only knows the history, but who has been living in Rome for two years.
Most people were asleep throughout this entire experience, and although sleep deprived, it was definitely worth the experience.