Day 5 of our pilgrimage was one of learning to accept that we have no control of our lives, but yet we need to trust that God will provide what we need.
We were scheduled to attend Mass at the Basilica of St. Peter, but when we arrived the security personnel said no, the basilica was closed because of the visit of a "VIP with a capital V," as our guide put it. (Someone later said it was because of the Mass with the cardinals who came for the canonization; don't know if that was the reason, but it sounds right.)
Then came some negotiations in Italian, and after a short but tension-filled wait we were in fact allowed in to the basilica, and the homily reminded me that back home it was Labor Day-a fact that I had completely forgotten.
More to the point, Fr. Marty said that when we return from this pilgrimage people will be watching us closely to see if the experience has changed us, which made me ask myself if it has. The answer? I don't know, but I hope so.
After the Mass we were supposed to have had time to look around St. Peter's, but security hustled us outweigh also were supposed to go through the Holy Door, but that was closed until 1 p.m. as well.
Then we went to the Spanish Steps, but they were closed for cleaning.
The schedule called for us to have the rest of the day free, so I found my way (after a few wrong turns) to Palazzetto Zuccaro, a house with the facade of a monster 's face designed by Federico Zuccaro. Then I sat in the Piazza di Spagna for a while, hoping to be inspired by the same air that had so inspired Keats (but didn't heal him of his tuberculosis.) When inspiration declined my invitation to strike, I had tea and a biscuit at Babington's and plotted my next move.
There remained hundreds of sites in Rome I had not yet visited, and I wanted very much to see them, but the driving force behind this pilgrimage for me was to go through all four Holy Doors in Rome. We had gone through three but because they had closed St. Peter's that morning we hadn't been able to go through the Holy Door there.
So I returned to St. Peter's and did just that. Then I prayed in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Words cannot describe the beauty of that room, with its massive golden tabernacle and inspiring paintings, the beauty enhanced by the silence. Outside the curtain are the noisy throngs of camera-wielding tourists, but inside the chapel there is the silence of prayer undisturbed by clicking shutters or the blink of camera flashes, because photos are forbidden there.There remained hundreds of not thousands of sites in Rome I had not yet visited, and I very much wanted to see them, but the driving force behind this pilgrimage for me was not the canonization but rather the chance to go through all four Holy Doors in Rome. We had gone through three, but because they had closed St. Peter's that morning, we hadn't been able to go through the Holy Door there.
Afterward I tried to go to Trastevere and the Ghetto, but got lost. By then it was getting toward dinner time, and I happened upon four members of my pilgrimage group seated outside a restaurant. They invited me to join them, and as we shared notes about our day a priest took the table next to us. We invited him to join us, which he did. Fr. Matthew from Pennsylvania said he had come to Rome for just three days, specifically because of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, and he meant to spend most of the next day in prayer in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.
Somehow his words consoled me, because I had been feeling as though the day, with its various disruptions to plans and wrong turns, had been wasted, but instead I had apparently done what I needed to do and what Fr. Matthew was planning to do, and that was to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.