Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Best of Times and Worst of Times in Rome

Everyone has a favorite city and Rome is high on my list. The sights are spectacular and numerous; the churches are magnificent; the cappuccino is delicious; and the Pope is here! Today, the piazza was packed for his Sunday Angelus. I would have to give the French the prize for the biggest cheering.

After the Angelus, I headed down to the tomb of Pope John Paul II. It keeps changing down there, each time I come. At first, you could take pictures and give the guards things to touch to the tomb. They started getting less willing to touch items to the tomb and added an overhead speaker system in many languages reminding you to be quiet. Ironically, it's the noise from the speaker that is the most distracting! Now they are not even allowing pictures to be taken. They do allow you to touch something to the floor just inside the rope but that's it. And yet, the crowds keep coming and coming and coming. Santo Subito!

I went to Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Altar of St. Joseph. Headed out afterward to the shops along Borgo Pio. Not much tourist traffic at all. Just before 3 o'clock, I entered the Holy Spirit Church for the beautiful Divine Mercy chaplet conducted each day by the sisters who take care of this beautiful church. Many of the prayers are in Polish because of the connection to Saint Faustina Kowalska. But the majority of the prayers were in Italian. I have been to this service before but noticed a beautiful addition this year. At the end of the chaplet, one of the sisters came to the front of the church with a cross that contained a relic of St. Faustina. I happened to be kneeling on the floor just to the left of her and was moved to watch the crowd of hundreds come forward to venerate the relic.

As an American Catholic, it is so uplifting to participate in the traditions and devotions and services here in Rome. But, it is also a sad time in this country for those who respect the sanctity of human life at all stages.

Yesterday, death by starvation began for a beautiful woman named Eluana Englaro who fell into a coma in 1992 and is now considered to be in a "persistent vegetative state." Sadly, she is being denied basic nutrition at the request of her father. The debate taking place over here, amid various protests and stages of legal action, are hauntingly similar to those that occurred in the U.S. when we were forced to stand by and watch the euthanization of Terry Schiavo. The news last night was centered on every aspect of this story.

Just two weeks ago, I was in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life and spent some time talking with a group of Italians, "Voglio Vivere," who have been coming to the U.S. for several years now to stand up for life. The war being waged against the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn and the infirm, is a global war and we need to be united in prayer. Please pray for Eluana, for her father, for all those who are involved in this situation, and for a victory over the culture of death.

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