A year ago July, as a graduate student with Loyola Chicago, I was in Rome. Given a free day to (pardon the pun) roam around, I hadn’t made any definitive plans. A couple of friends had invited me to take two early morning trains out to Castel Gandolfo on the uncertainty that Pope Francis was to appear there that day. Alas, he was there..I was not. Sunburned and needing more sleep, I decided to climb back into bed forgoing this graced opportunity.
Yet the Spirit, as it so often is known to do, would not disappoint! Heading down to breakfast, I was greeted with my cocoa toasted cappuccino and my other friends who had yet to finalize their day. After expressing my interest to see the Divine Mercy Shrine at The Church of Santo Spirito, we all agreed that would be a good starting place! Upon arrival, we were greeted by… wedding guests and the beautiful tones of Ave Maria as the bride walked down the aisle. This would be one of four weddings we were to glimpse that day!
From there to San Teodoro and into one of the most beloved bakeries in Rome, Cristalli di Zucchero.
To an incredible farmer’s market
then a few minutes of Adoration at the Church of San Teodoro al Palentino. Earlier at the bakery, we had spoken with a Religious Art
student from Paris who had told us of a beautiful fresco of Mary in Santo Sabina’s. This was coincidentally was up Aventine Hill, where my friend MaryEllen had wanted to go. Considered one of the most spectacular views of Rome, it left us all breathless.
In each of the churches atop this hill was a wedding, each unique, open and inviting.
With the day not over, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain to toss our coins in with a promise to return again. Tired but happy, hungry but filled, we went in search of a bite to eat and rest for our feet. As we all offered our shared amazement at how everything seemed to flow, despite being unplanned, God’s last gift unfolded.
One day, I had mentioned to Goshia how I wanted to see the church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but was unsure if it would happen with so much to see. As we sat, and looking up from our outdoor dinner conversation she nudged me. “Elizabeth, look there it is, the IHM church!” Right in front of my eyes. God never ceases to surprise. As we entered, one of us remarked, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make mass here!?” So there we were, praying silently as the rosary was being said , in the very spot where St. Maximillian Kolbe had said his 1st mass. When, in a flurry of robes, candles, and music mass began and the church was filled with parishioners. We all turned to look at one another as if to say, Can you believe this? While spoken all in Italian, I felt right at home, part of a family so much bigger than my own.