My daughter Cindy and her husband Ben just returned home from visiting Ben's family outside Portland Oregon. We opened Christmas presents last night. After ripping the wrapping paper away from my gift I found T-shirt. Oh boy, another T-shirt . . .
. . . but then a smile broke out on my face when I saw the writing on the front. If you know the title of my first book, Crossing the Tiber, you will understand why.
Also, on a trip to Rome shortly after our conversion I put on my running shoes, went to the far side of the Tiber River and jogged across the Bridge of the Angels, went down and splashed in the Tiber River (on stairs down that were covered with hypodermic needles used by drug addicts).
I had crossed the Tiber, representing my leaving the world to enter the Catholic Church! (Picture: The shirt says “Property of the Tiber River Swim Team — swimming against the tide“)
I then ran up Via Conciliacione (“Reconciliation Street”) into the arms of the Church — the porticos of St. Peter's which reach out to welcome and embrace the believer. I passed the water fountains representing baptism, then past Peter and Paul the founders of the Church in Rome and looked up to see Jesus and the apostles on the fascade, along with hundreds of saints on the porticos — all welcoming me into the house of God — the Church built over the bones of the first pope St. Peter.
I entered the Holy Doors engraved with the Life of Christ and the Sacraments, then dipped my finger in the holy water fonts to recall my baptism vows and to apply the cross again to my mind, my heart and my strength. Then I reverently approached the front.
The first thing you see is the brilliant amber window with the dove of the Holy Spirit filling the Church with his light. From him radiates twelve sections representing the Apostles who carried the light of the Holy Spirit to the world. I passed by the bones of St. Peter under the High Altar, past the place he was cruficied, past so much the eye nor brain can never assimilate it all.
There in the front I fell on my face and wept. The chair of Peter, the golden angels singing all around, and four Doctors of the Church in bronze — Sts. Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine and John Chrysostom — looking up with reverence to the Holy Spirit and the Chair of Peter.
(Picture: Steve overlooking the Tiber River from the Bridge of the Angels with St. Peters in the background. Click on picture for larger image.)
And there I stayed for a long time, tears dripping on the floor, a heart of gratitude to God for opening my eyes to his Salvation and his Church. I had crossed the Tiber and submitted to Rome — and the joy and release and freedom and obligation to obey filled my soul — and still does!
Later I kissed Pope John Paul II's ring to proclaim to the world — and the heavens with all its angels and saints, all its demons and powers of evil — and to God himself, that I had submitted to Our Lord in the heart of his Church! I had crossed the Tiber and come home to the Church!
And now you know why I love my new T-shirt. Thanks Cindy and Ben!