Saturday, February 02, 2008

My Coolest Rome Moment

Well, not really only mine. It was shared by two other people.

Last Monday afternoon I met a friend of mine for lunch. He's a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, and like the rest of the guys who study at the Roman universities this time of year, he's in the midst of final exams. It worked out well: he was willing to take a study break, and I had a little bit of time away from my tour group. We met at "La Vittoria", a great place just outside the left collonnade of Piazza San Pietro (conveniently nearby the underground tunnel that leads up the Gianicolo to the North American College).

So now lunch is over, and we head out. Who is coming into the restaurant by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna. This guy is every Rome groupie's dream: a Cardinal, a member of Pope Benedict's group of former student alumni who still meet with him each summer (Schönborn was a doctoral student of then-Professor Ratzinger), and the general editor of the Catechism! See, THAT'S what makes Rome great! In the midst of a lunch with a friend, you can end up seeing someone you've only known through television or in books. Needless to say, I was unprepared for a meeting, and so had nothing to say to him other than, "Hello, your eminence, I'm from the United States." He walks into the restaurant, and I walk my friend back to the escalator up the hill.

It's now about 1:25, and I'm supposed to meet my friend Fr. Guy at 2pm in the Piazza. He's staying over at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and I'm walking right past it. Why not just meet him early? I get past the Swiss Guards by the Holy Office gate with a smile and body language that says, "Don't you know who I am? I belong here and I'm going to keep walking like I do every single day" (body language is key in the Vatican City-State). Then I get to the next stop, the Vatican Police. Here's where body language didn't work. Telling them I had a friend at the DSM was not enough to allow me to keep walking. Now they had to call ahead and tell Fr. Guy I was coming. Luckily, he didn't tell them I was some homicidal maniac dressed like a Priest, and I was allowed to go on to the Domus.

We hung out there until about 2:15 (during which time I told him about my run-in with Card. Schönborn), and then started walking across the piazza, heading to do some shopping. As we got behind the huge nativity scene, we spotted it: a Cardinal's zucchetto. In the midst of the greys, blacks, and browns of the square, that unique scarlet stands out like a lazer pointer used by many of the roman tour guides. He might as well have been wearing one of those bright orange safety pennants that used to be attached to the back of bicycles. It was Schönborn again! Since we were all heading to the same walkway, we met up with him, and this time I was prepared to say something coherent other than my name. Fr. Guy told him that he uses the Catechism in the monthly "Catholic Q&A" he runs in his parish. I told him I showed videos of an interview he gave on EWTN about the parts of the Catechism to my adult education program in my parish. The Cardinal couldn't have been nicer, and seemed happy to hear that the Catechism he had worked so hard to create (one which not a few people at the time of its release said that the laity would never be able to understand) was being used in parishes. By the time we got to the newspaper kiosk, he went his way, and we went ours.

Rome is great for run-ins like that, and that was the best one of this last trip.


DominiSumus said...

La Vittoria is a great restaurant. In my opinion, it's one of the best in the Vatican area. How cool to meet Cardinal Schönborn there.

You are making me miss Rome even more than I already did. :-)

Brunilda said...

Awsome. This was my first pilgrimage and first time to Europe. And we have God to thank for the most perfect January weather in Rome.

Thank you for planning our visits to so many holy sights.

This is a blessing to me as I start this year's lenten season.

Thanks to you Father and to Lorraine for all your hard work.