Here for the Episcopal Ordination tomorrow of Monsignor Paul Tighe (a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin) who has worked in the Vatican for a number of years and recently moved to a new post in the Pontifical Council for Culture. I’m looking forward to the ceremony and thankful to have been asked to attend. Paul has connections with home. His mother is Johnson from Ballymote and there are cousins in Gurteen too. Happy as well about that link!
Spent a bit of time around Rome today and visited two “Holy Doors” – one at the Basilica of St John Lateran and the other at St Peter’s. The doors are wide open and welcoming but I have to say I’ve noticed a marked increase in security since I was last here. To get to the open doors, there are queues of people going through airport style security. It almost seems a contradiction that the open door is on the latch behind a layer of security. In its own way though, it’s a sign too that when evil is at work in the world, it quite literally stifles (but never quenches) the flow of good.
I wandered around both Basilicas and their vastness never ceases to amaze but for some reason they don’t especially move me. I’ve seen people deep in prayer in both “churches” despite all the movement that’s going on around them. I think that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to at Paul’s Ordination is to see St Peter’s focused in prayer around an individual and his ministry. Chances are, it will take on a new and deeper significance for me.
I also climbed “on knees” as is the custom the “Holy Stairs“. A sore climb but one made by countless people. One step at a time, one prayer at a time. There’s an image at the top of the Crucified Christ with a woman and man at the foot of the Cross. I’m taking them to be Mary and St John. My confusion around that is that they both look quite old and drained. In a way, I’d like to think it is Mary, because I think we need to see her more like that from time to time. Sometimes the beautiful images of her belie a woman who knew at the deepest level of her heart what suffering meant. In this knowledge she is, for all of us, in tune with our own sadnesses and difficulties.
Finally, I spent time on trains and in the presence of people speaking a language that I do not understand. The occasional Italian word a native speaker does not make!! I wondered what people were talking about but, more than once, found myself drawn to broad smiles and deep laughter. It’s such a common language and we should be very grateful for it. It truly is the shortest distance between two people.
So where’s the thought in all this? I’m here to share in prayer and joy an important moment in the life of another. I wandered around today, saw buildings, tried to say a few prayers, almost got to Confessions but I met nobody I know. I’m looking forward to meeting people tomorrow, including some from the Irish College and a few Sligo people too. Rome will be at its best then, for it is truly people who make places. The Holy Doors are open and, please God, security needs will lessen as people come to recognise the common language of a smile and laugh. Also, the aged and worried Mary at the top of the Holy Stairs is an image that will remain.
Oh, forgot to say I bought a cap!!