Sunday, March 30, 2008

To Rome - 6th Day (03/06/08)

I awoke on this day to my roommate, Beth, leaving for a dawn walk around the walls of San Gimignano. I myself could use another day here to take in the quiet, beauty and simplicity of this gem of a place. We planned to depart for Rome shortly after 10 a.m. so there was no arranged schedule other than suitcases and belongings downstairs in the courtyard by 10:20 a.m.

Most gathered for breakfast in the large dining room while some ventured out early to the intensely windy and cold open air market in the large piazza. A few wandered to grab a final cappuccino or a souvenir before our long bus ride.

I need to spend time with the Gozzoli frescoes, so I ask Ian to let me into Sant’ Agostino. No book, postcard, video, or photo can fully describe what it’s like to stand in that space where the friars met in daily prayer behind the main altar. I’m alone in the church to witness the color, scope, beauty, space and emotion of those 17 paintings which storyboard Augustine’s life.

Brian’s inspiring Wednesday tour brought me back this morning for more. My favorite depicts Augustine’s leaving Roma for Milano where Gozzoli illustrates in his facial expression “the restless heart.” Yesterday, Brian related that at this point in Augustine’s life, he was going towards the pinnacle of his career, yet his face tells us of his disinterest; he’s going through the motions, devoid of joy or fulfillment. At the right edge of this fresco, Gozzoli’s self-portrait stares at me, as he has stared at countless others since 1465, pointing his finger to indicate Augustine amidst the crowd.

At the appointed time, we rolled our suitcases across the courtyard, through the large wooden doors and down the steep ramp which leads out of the monastery. With the rumble of luggage wheels on cobblestone streets, we formed a train past Ristorante Il Pino, onto Via San Matteo, and exited the walls to reunite with Giancarlo, who stayed with his family in nearby Pisa these days without our need of a bus. We loaded our luggage with grazie e arrivederci to Fr. Brian and Fr. Ian and headed for Rome.

Fr. Joe led us in prayer each morning on the bus’s microphone. Shortly thereafter, Fr Joe once again shifted gears for a few jokes and funny stories. Today, however, other pilgrims were ready to respond in kind .... After Fr. Joe's “Two all-beef patties, Special Ross……on a Sesame Street bus” we were treated to "I left my harp in Sam Crab’s disco"; "It’s the bottom of the ninth….and the fans are going wild"; the infamous "He should’ve quit while he was a head" and the scandalous "Throw away your rosary, girl - our prayers have been answered!" In truth, you really had to be there.

At any rate, we stopped for pranzo along the highway at Sardi’s right past Orvieto and arrived in Rome around 4:15 p.m.

Our accommodations are at Casa per Ferie S. Maria Alle Fornici,
a residence maintained by the Trinitarian Order. We clearly see the dome of St. Peter’s as we disembark the bus. We also know that this is arrivederci time for Giancarlo and our group. Having passed a hat to collect a small expression of our appreciation, Chrissy rehearsed our thank you and farewell in Italian, which she delivered perfectly.

Giancarlo was a good and faithful servant to our group. Each day brought a new adventure with him. He tutored us in Italian, laughed at our jokes, lifted and hauled our baggage with care, shepherded us through the Monday morning traffic of Milan, helped us on/off the bus, kept us on schedule with flying rather than driving. I hope that future Villanova Pellegrini have someone like Giancarlo to make the bus rides interesting. Grazie, Giancarlo!

We unload and unpack, then meet Fr. Joe in the lobby at 6 p.m. where he leads us to the Augustinian House of Studies outside of Vatican City- I’m talking literally, right next to Vatican City. It’s beginning to rain and turn dark, so we did not immediately recognize Fr. Tom Martin under his umbrella as he came outside to greet us. Fr. Martin spent spring break in Rome to work on his research. There are three buildings within this “campus.” Walking up the steep hill, we enter the Augustinianum, also known as the Patristic Institute.

Fr. Joe explained that the institute is administered by the Augustinian Order with a focus on Patristic Studies, it was founded in 1972 and confers bachelor degrees, licenses and doctoral degrees. Before that time, the Order offered degrees from Collegio Santa Monica AKA St. Monica’s College, which is at the bottom of the hill from the Augustinianum. St. Monica’s is an international house of studies, currently home for 58 students from 22 countries. The building contains residences, a Chapel, a refectory AND the most amazing terrace on the fourth floor which overlooks the dome and St. Peter’s Square. Fr. Joe lived here while he studied at the Gregorian. In the Augustinianum, we met Fr. Bob Dodaro, president of the Augustinianum, and a Villanova University graduate, who had Immer as a professor.

Across from St. Monica’s is the Curia, the administration building
of the worldwide headquarters for the Augustinian Order. We met
Fr. Michael DiGregorio, assistant general of the Augustinian Order
and member of the Villanova Province, who led us through the building. There was artwork on all of the walls from members of the Augustinian Order and we were delighted to see Fr. Richard Cannuli’s watercolors hanging in the halls. The building contains administrative offices, meeting spaces, a dining room, residences and a chapel. Among a great collection of portraits of Priors General of the Augustinian Order, we find the current Prior General Most Reverend Robert Prevost, O.S.A., who happens to be a VU grad.

As we left the Curia, we met Fr. Alan Fitzgerald, a member of the Villanova Province, and former Villanova professor who now teaches in Rome. We braved the steady rain to walk to Ristorante Polese, where we enjoyed a 3-hour dining experience with our group, minus Will who was still battling illness (we missed you, Will!). Joining us were Fr. Martin, Fr. Fitzgerald, Fr. DiGregorio, and Fr. Bob Guesetto, director of students of Collegio Santa Monica. Fr. Guessetto, a VU grad from the Villanova Province, was in the same class as President Fr. Peter Donohue and had Immer as a professor as well. After the wine, bread, lasagna, veal and potatoes, salad, tiramisu and limoncello, we walked back in the steady rain to our accommodations, preparing for an early rise to meet for Mass at St. Peter’s.

Thanks to pilgrim Bernadette for providing this record of the sixth day of our pilgrimage, and to all who have shared photographs for this entry.

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