I know it’s a cliche, but there I was yesterday afternoon on the quiet banks of the Tiber taking one last gaze at Rome and playing “Arrivederci Roma” on my iPhone. Our seven weeks together as capitulants officially ended on Saturday evening, but most of us leave today, Monday. Yesterday I was part of the schola conducted very skillfully by Bro. Claude to celebrate Pentecost in the main chapel. It was a very nice liturgy, and we had a last lunch together after.
Then, after a brief siesta, I headed out into Rome just to wander around a bit. It was the first really warm day in Rome, but lots of narrow streets with a shady side helped a lot. I noticed many more tourists now that June is here. The usual tourist spots such as the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona were bustling with tour groups and sunglasses and trinket vendors. My favorite “old” monument is the Pantheon. It never ceases to awe me when I suddenly see it through a side street and then walk into the plaza. It is strikingly massive and the best preserved Roman temple in the world. To walk inside and gaze upwards is to glimpse perfection and divinity in a structure made almost 2000 years ago.
Part of my goal for being there was also to check out two nearby places that a Roman couple recommended. One was Tazza d’Oro Coffee Shop and the other is Giolitti’s. I was advised to have a “granita” at Tazza d’Oro (Cup of Gold), and it is a sort of iced coffee, but that hardly does it justice. Typical of any coffee served in Rome, it seemed small, but once I spooned into its creamy coffee flavor, I was hooked. Then, I visited nearby Giolitti’s, a world famous gelateria. Unlike most gelaterias, it even has waiter service and extensive indoor seating. I had been there on my first trip to Rome with students back in the late 70s, and I really wondered if it lives up to its reputation. After all, I have frequented more than a few gelaterias these seven weeks. In short, it does! (This is, dear reader, my last gelato review. Oh, how I shall miss my official duties as a gelato reviewer and the subsequent obligation to try gelato whenever possible!)
So, anyway, before heading back to the Generalate for our usual 7:30 dinner, I ended up at the Tiber. The banks are significantly below street level, so save for a bike trail and a few runners, it is a very quiet refuge from the crowds and din above. It was a nice way to say farewell to the Eternal City.
I’m writing this at Fiumicino airport, while waiting for my late morning flight direct to Chicago. I’ll arrive mid-afternoon, thanks to a seven-hour time difference and about a nine-hour flight. I’m certainly very glad to be heading home. It has been a very intense seven weeks. I have never before experienced a seven-week meeting. I also don’t think I’ve ever had seven straight weeks of no traveling, since I became Visitor. I did appreciate being in one place for a while.
To say we accomplished a lot really is an understatement. I can honestly say that I had serious doubts that we would get thought the Rule revision, especially given the fatigue level after five weeks of meeting and the excitement and drama of election week. But we did it, and I have no doubt we have the Holy Spirit to thank—along with all of your prayers.
I will miss this good group of “principal Brothers”, especially a few of them. The Young Brothers, for instance, were an exceptional group and added a lot to our experience on many levels. It was a joy to be with them. To spend time with the Lwanga Brothers, especially my old friend Belayneh, was a also a blessing. I will need some time to unpack this whole experience, but I am deeply grateful to have been part of it all, despite the inevitable challenges, frustrations, and multi-lingual processing.
I am very proud of our new Superior General’s first few weeks. He has been tirelessly meeting with so many groups, and his closing address Saturday morning was very impressive. We are in good and very capable hands these next seven years. (interesting how many times the number 7 appears in this narrative. As you know it is, along with 12, one of the “perfect” numbers in Christianity. Perfect, right?)
So, arrivederci Roma; hello again, Chicago. It is nice coming home to summer; when I left on Easter Sunday, it was still a rather chilly spring in Chicago. That seems like a long time ago. Now, after a pretty extra-ordinary experience, it’s back to ordinary time. Ever onward!