A little confused
Once again I came home from Rome a little confused. Now let me tell you that I am not all that hard to confuse. The old one liner, “How do you confuse an Irishman? Give him two shovels and tell him to take his pick!” applies to me. So why did I come home from Rome in such a state?
The problem for me when it comes to Rome is that I could never figure out what is it about this city that I just can't get enough of it. I have been there several times, maybe eight or nine, and every time I go I come home feeling good. Mrs Q, a novice in the field, who has only been there twice, is already working on our next trip which could be as soon as October, if I get my way.
How I found the answer.
The intractable problem, of why I always come home from Rome feeling good, was solved for me by one of those secular type people. I have no idea of their name, where they are from or what they do but it was something that they said about a movie that I recently saw.
We arrived home from Rome early on Saturday morning, about 1.30am, and after a good night’s sleep we headed out to the cinema that evening, to see a new release called ‘Risen’ which is a film about the effect seeing the risen Lord has upon a Roman soldier.
I thought that the movie was superb. It had good professional actors, the music was brilliant and the photography and direction were second to none. Although it was a fictional story, we knew the basic outline and when scenes from the Gospels were shown we were aware of what was going to happen next.
The critics castigated it. They could do nothing else because this was a wonderfully moving film about Jesus being shown in a world that wants nothing but excitement. Mrs Q read out one of the comments: “This film is not worth seeing. It is only for the faithful.”
And that was my answer.
Immediately, I had the answer to my dilemma about Rome. If you are not a believer, one time in Rome will be enough and you will probably come away thinking that it is a horrible place and saying that the Church should sell all these wonderful art works and give the money to the poor.
There is no other way a secularist can see Rome. The big churches, the beautiful art revealing the glory of God, the queues of people waiting patiently to go into another big building, all these are an insult to him or her.
In extreme cases, and this often happens in Catholics, they come to hate the church and all that she teaches, holding up Rome as the perfect example of the materialism that infects the Church. They have missed the point completely.
It is awful!
The word ‘awe’ means to “inspire a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder,” and this is exactly what Rome, with all its churches and art, does to the faithful. We, Mrs Q and I, when we see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel we are both ‘awed’ by the grandeur and glory that is shown in such a wonderful piece of art.
If you go to Rome as a tourist you will come home as a tourist. If you travel as a pilgrim, humbly going to pray and seek out what God is trying to tell you, you will come home inspired, full of awe and having had a wonderful experience.
They are just big chapels.
This year, because it is the Year of Mercy, I wanted to walk through the Holy Door, something I had never done before. When I went down to St Peter’s on Sunday morning it looked like half of Rome had decided to go that day as well. There was a queue about a mile long and from where I was looking it didn't appear to be moving very fast.
Eventually we got in. I paused at the Holy Door and prayed for a few people at home and abroad and moved on up the basilica until I found the place where Mass was going to be held. I must have picked the right time because soon a long column of cardinals, bishops and priests came in to celebrate Mass. It was wonderful.
Over the next few days, as we walked around the four major basilicas, something hit home to me that I had never really noticed before: all these massive churches, with their unsurpassed art, are nothing more than ordinary chapels. Mass was being said every day, confessions was being heard, there was a wedding in one of them on the Tuesday afternoon. There is nothing more goes on here than goes on in Clady Chapel, where I go to Mass.
Wait til you here this!!
Then a wonderful thought hit me; all these holy cardinals, bishops and church dignitaries can't say a Mass that means anything more than the Mass I heard celebrated by our humble PP this morning in Clady Chapel. Now that is something when you stop to think about it….our wee country curate can say a Mass of equal value as that said by the Pope of Rome.
I think this was the biggest lesson I got in Rome this year, the fact that all these huge basilicas, with all their wonderful art, are nothing more than working chapels. On our last day in Rome we went to St Peter’s, we had Mass, saw people going to confessions and spent a half hour at Eucharistic adoration before we finally left.
Now that says something about our God. He makes it so that we can offer as much worship to him in Clady Chapel as the men with red hats can do in St Peters. There is no other community in the world where everyone is as equal as that.
Back home, and we heard it all before.
After the praying, it was back home again to the hum drum life that we all live. Piers Morgan was getting a bit of stick in the nice media because he gave Donald Trump an easy ride in an interview that he did with him. The Daily Mail was first out of the blocks, giving some people’s reactions to the interview.
“It's like watching the ramblings of a drunk uncle at a BBQ': Britons react with appalled amazement to Donald Trump after his full interview with Piers Morgan is broadcast,” and then the story continued;
“TV viewers in Britain reacted in appalled shock at the ramblings of Donald Trump after the would-be US President gave an interview to Piers Morgan. The full broadcast of the showdown between the two aired in full on Friday on ITV, having been shown in segments on Good Morning Britain earlier this week. During the interview, the frontrunner for the Republican candidacy gave his thoughts on a range of topics, from the latest terror attack in Belgium, to gun violence in the US.”
One small point; the people of Britain will not have a vote when it comes to electing the next US President!
Also in the interview, our Donald made reference to the fact that the Muslims of Brussels must have supported the Paris killers and the bombers of the airport because they knew what was going on and where these men were.
I remember hearing such words from right wing unionist politicians here thirty and forty years ago: “The Catholic must know who the IRA are and who is doing the killing.”
They were half right
In fairness to the politicians, they were half right. Most of us did have a good idea who was in the Provos, but we didn't have a clue who was doing the shooting or any of the serious stuff. For the most part we ignored the whole thing and got on with our lives, just as the people of Brussels think to themselves that ‘this has nowt to do with me and I have to get on with my life.’
When you live in a ghetto, be that in Northern Ireland or Belgium, you do your own thing and leave the security forces to do whatever it is that they are supposed to do; you keep your nose out of it. The little people of this world have enough bother looking after their own affairs without trying to do the work of the police for them. It is just the way we are.
What would you do?
Here is a question for you as we celebrate the great centenary of the Easter Rising. Now, I want you to be honest with yourself before you say anything.
If you saw something that a Dissident Republican was doing would you go and tell the police? Say that you saw a man moving a ‘bit of stuff’ from his car to a house, would you go home and call your local village bobby and tell him that ‘I seen yer man carrying a rifle and a bag into number 10 down the street.’
We have created a mess for ourselves in Europe. We have brought in all these foreign people and we have not been able to assimilate them into our culture. They are still a people apart and we don't know what we are going to do with them. But should we in Northern Ireland be surprised at all this?
Have you any real friends from across the religious divide? It is not a comfortable question in these times when we are all supposed to be getting on together but be honest, how many of ‘them’ do you go to dinner with, play golf with and drop in on them unannounced?
I’ll bet that if you are truthful that there aren’t that many of us who go down to the local for a few pints with the other sort.
I supported the Orangemen once…
It was in the 1974 World Cup when Holland got to the final and played against West Germany. Johan Cryuff led the team and introduced the world to ‘total football.’ It was wonderful. Sadly, Cryuff went off to the great football match in the sky at the weekend. He died of cancer.
“The Holland football legend Johan Cryuff has died of cancer at the age of 68. The Dutchman, who on three occasions was voted the world player of the year, guided Holland to the World Cup final in 1974 and as a manager he spent eight years in charge of Barcelona.
“On March 24 2016 Johan Cruyff (68) died peacefully in Barcelona, surrounded by his family after a hard fought battle with cancer. It’s with great sadness that we ask you to respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief,” read a statement on the World of Johan Cryuff website.”
He is quoted as once saying, 'you play football with your head, and your legs are there to help you.’ That shows you the way that Cryuff viewed football.
Again, the way that the churches in Rome fill us with awe, the deaths of these famous men remind us that we are all mortal and that we are all moving up the queue on a daily basis: thank God for Easter Sunday.
While you are reading this…
While you are reading this we are still celebrating Easter Sunday. Easter is one of those feasts that the Church gives eight days too, so all this week is just one long Easter Sunday. I like it. I like the fact that this is God’s promise to us that we shall see our loved ones again and that we shall all come together in his presence in some way that we can't yet understand.
You see so much of this in Rome, paintings of the resurrected Christ, of the Ascension and relics of various people who have died for the faith.
The poor of Pakistan are still dying for the faith in much the same way as the people of Ardoyne and other places in Northern Ireland died for no other reason than that they were Catholic.
Every morning Mrs Q says a prayer for persecuted Christians and I add that no one should be persecuted for their faith. And no one means no one; Christian, Muslim or any sect.
What would you do?
Then in conversation on Sunday night, Mrs Q asked me a question. “What would you do if ISIS destroyed St Peters and the Vatican?”
For many people they would think that this would be the end of Christianity but for me it would be just another event. Much as I love Rome and all the art and inspirational things that it contains, it is just another place although somewhere very special. But if ISIS tore down St Peter’s and all those churches would it mean the end of our faith?
Most assuredly not. All that I would do would be go to Mass the next morning and think of what we could do to begin the process of building it again. Our faith is not a faith of buildings and fancy houses; no, it is much more than that.
Our faith is built on the fact that a man rose from the dead. That is an indisputable fact that can never be changed and no amount of blowing up and killing can ever negate that truth. The buildings in Rome can be replaced just as they could be torn down but the fact that Jesus rose from the dead is with us forever.
The atheists and all those who hate our faith have no answer to that. And it should also give us great joy as springtime comes upon us.