Sunday, November 14, 2004

Rome

by Steve Ray on November 14, 2004

God is a father and a good one. Jesus told us to call him Abba, which is
really like saying, “Call God Daddy!” Good dads always look for ways to do
nice things for their kids and as a good dad God looks for nice things to do
for us.

Today was no exception. Janet and I woke up in Rome after sleeping 12 hours
to recover a wee bit from jetlag. I got my e-mail off Hewlett Packard iPAQ
handheld and saw that the relics of St. Augustine were in Rome for the first
time ever. How amazing our short trip to Rome coincided with the first visit
to Rome of the bones of Augustine.

I learned they would be at the  “Campo Marzio” and nothing more was written.
I got out my maps and tour books and found that in Campo Marzio there were
about 10-20 churches (I hear there are almost 800 in Rome) and one of them
was Chiesa Santo Agostino – the Church of St. Augustine.

We took off in the morning for a brisk walk. We stopped at our favorite
restaurant and our friend Max told us he was baptized and had his first
communion in the Church of St. Augustine. We arrived after walking past St.
Peter’s, crossing the Tiber (I just LOVE doing that J and then through busy
streets and narrow alleys. We found the church and sure enough inside were
the bones of St. Augustine in a glass reliquary with kneelers around them.
On the side in a smaller reliquary were the bones of one of his fingers.
Image, the bones from a finger from a hand of St. Augustine that wrote
thousands of pages with words that soar to the heavens.

One of our upcoming video/DVDs will be on the Fathers of the Church
including St. Augustine, so I implored “St. Augustine, pray for us!” But
even more remarkable was that on the other side of the altar we discovered
the tomb and bones of St. Monica, the faithful mother of Augustine and my
wife’s confirmation saint. So, Janet knelt there for some time imploring
“St. Monica, pray for us and our family!” since Monica is the patron saint
of mothers.

We also found famous paintings in the church one even used in our Jesus DVD,
the Prophet Isaiah painted by Raphael and Caravaggio’s Our Lady of Loreto
which was rejected because it was deemed impious since the pilgrims visiting
Our Lady were poor and had dirty feet.

Mass was scheduled for 6 PM which was delightful. Beautiful music and
heavenly voices, black-habited Augustinian nuns gracefully dancing up the
isle carrying bouquets of roses, about 20 priests, and everything in Italian
so we couldn’t understand a word. Never have there probably been as many
Augustinians in one place – the church was packed. I couldn’t help thinking
of Martin Luther, the Augustinian monk who broke with the Church – what
sorrow he brought and what an awful cleaving he brought, discontinuity to a
beautiful continuity. How I rejoice in having left his faction to rejoin the
Church. I couldn’t help but revel in the historical, theological, and
liturgical continuity of the moment. The Mass we celebrated today in
complete continuity with the Mass St. Augustine must have celebrated in
Roman North Africa 1600 years ago.

All in all it was a great day, cool weather with the forecasted rain never
materializing. Tomorrow we head out to discover more of the God’s glories,
especially the bones of St. Catherine of Sienna and who knows what else. No
matter how many times one explores Rome, her treasures can never be
exhausted.

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