Day Twelve is January 8, 2007. There were only two things on our agenda for this day, to go to Albano and then back to Rome to have dinner with Fr. Steven Lopes.
First we had to check out of our Hotel in Siena and find our way South. It was rush hour in ancient Siena, cars going everywhere in those tiny streets. We had to check out of the Hotel and then I had to walk a couple of blocks to get the car and then drive to the hotel, park as far to the left as I could, and get all the luggage to the car with all these cars and trucks and even buses going by. We eventually made it and were soon out on the Autostrada making our way South.
I suppose now would be a good time to talk about the weather while we were in Rome. We had remarkable weather. People were commenting on how warm it was and that there had been so little rain. It had rained on us a couple of times but the rain had the decency to fall only at night when we were asleep, If it rained during the day then it would only rain while were inside on a tour. On our drive south today it rained pretty steadily, sometimes very hard. We stayed warm and dry in our car, listening to chant and telling stories. Stan and Sr. Mary Mark discovered these little tables in the back seat and tried to compose a few postcards, but the road was not cooperating.
Whatever it was, rain, chant, or riveting conversation we ended up taking the wrong exit off the Autostrada. I think maybe it was the confusing signs on the highway. Sometimes they were more understandable, but the directions on the freeway were a bit more confusing for someone who does not read Italian. We found our way through the center of Rome and turned left on a Road I knew went south. It, in fact, went south all the way to Albano. Once there I began looking for signs that might direct us to the Sanctuary of St. Paul. The signs ended up having the words for St. Paul in tiny print. In larger print were the words S. Gaspare. We eventually found our way there and the rain stopped just long enough for us to walk into the Church.
St. Paul in Albano has been a center for us from the early days of St. Gaspar. It was here that he was first buried after he died. After his remains were transferred to Rome, they still kept a piece of him here.
I found a nun doing some needle work in the Sacristy and I told her in my best Italian that I was a Missionary of the Precious Blood and would like to meet the CPPS that were there. Ok, I had met formidable roadblocks before and this one was not going to deter me. Then out came a torrent of Italian in rapid fire that I could not understand. Ok, I will look elsewhere. I went out into the courtyard a found a front door. The voice that answered was a CPPS who had spent years in Tanzania and who knew English pretty well. Fr. Antonio was the picture of hospitality and showed us around with great delight. He disappeared for a few minutes and came back to tell us it was time for Lunch and he had prepared a table for us. The whole community of seminarians was there, as well as the staff of the house and the priests who are retired there and many of the sisters, including the one who had been the earlier roadblock. After Fr. Antonio had let us in he had led us back into the church through the sacristy and when we went through the sister just looked up at me and grunted.
I should have gotten pictures of the crèche scene in the dining room before we ate. It was beautiful. After lunch I looked back there and the seminarians were dismantling it and putting it away. I did get a shot of the crèche in the Church.
After lunch we were taken on a tour of the museum that is at Albano. The museum has many artifacts from St. Gaspar’s life. One of the most amazing items is to see the crucifix he carried with him on mission. It was designed to fold up for easier traveling.
There are many paintings and artifacts and holy cards from the time, his breviaries, cassock, and some vestments as well as sacred vessels. I have been there three or four times now and it is always a joy to visit this holy place.
After our little tour we got back to our car and drove back into Rome. It was time to find Villa Lituania again and check in. This time we had a car as we could not turn it in until the morning. So we parked in their gate area and went inside to get them to open it. When I got back outside it was beginning to close again. So this time I waited with the car while someone else went in. Once parked, we unloaded and checked in. We got some different rooms this time around in another building. Italian accommodations are pretty interesting sometimes. In Assisi I had such a small bathroom that the bathroom itself was the shower stall. I think we all agreed that this part of the trip we got better accommodations.
We had made arrangements to meet Fr. Lopes at Chiesa Nuova at 6:30 or so, so we had several hours to kill and decided to see some things that had been missed from the first days itinerary. We freshened up a bit and then headed over to Santa Croce. We looked around a bit and then I inquired of the monk in the gift shop if Fr. Mark Kirby was around or available. Within about five minutes he was downstairs and giving us a tour of the place. He was quite animated in his devotion to this place and spoke of the many saints who had come to the shrine to pray. St. Gaspar had made his retreat here before ordination and afterwards preached to the monks ten Lenten seasons in a row.
Don Marco and I made plans to get together to celebrate Mass at the shrine in a few days, then we got ourselves a taxi and made it over to Chiesa Nuova. Chiesa Nuova is where St. Gaspar preached his last mission before he died. We were there in plenty of time to visit the church. Soon after we arrived a Mass began at the tomb of St. Philip Neri.
Fr. Lopes arrived soon after and shepherded us to one of his favorite restaurants. We were among the first to arrive at the restaurant but soon after it filled up. It must have been American’s night out because the only language we hear in our section was English. These two young women were having an animated conversation not realizing that their clear high and distinct voices pierced the atmosphere and were louder that the rest of the customers combined. The food and wine were terrific. There is a little pasta called caci e pepe that I had not had before but must learn how to make. Even more terrific was the conversation, Fr. Steve filling us in on the politics and economics of the parish back in the 80’s and 90’s when he was a parishioner and super sacristan. (Did I forget to mention that he was a student of mine back in the late ‘80s). Anyway, Steven confirmed in many ways the stories I have learned about this place that illustrates much of what we have yet to turn around and reform here. That I was able to return to the parish and finally informed them that we ended a year in the black is some indication that we are on solid ground again. It was a great dinner and we enjoyed it too much. We had been among the first to arrive at the restaurant. We were definitely the last ones to leave. A good indicator of the intense conversation was that I failed to take any pictures to record the event. It was a Feast.
We were not too distant from the Vatican so we accompanied Fr. Lopes back there by foot. It was an easier place to catch a cab that could take us back to our Guest house. This was a heavily Gasparian day and the morrow was going to be principally Dominican for Sr. Mary Mark again.