I overslept on Monday. I had been working all weekend, but that’s no excuse. It was a school day, and there was lunch to pack for my daughter.
In order to do that, I needed some of the things sitting in the sink and soaking.
So I found myself pressed for time, and hastily reciting my morning prayers – the bare minimum Pater, Ave, Gloria and oratio pro Pontifice (we’re not fanatics) – while I scrubbed dishes.
I thought about having to confess distraction at prayer, hitting on a good closing line for a piece and dwelling on it as I recited the end of one of the prayers. But there my Jesuit education saved me: I wasn’t washing the dishes while I was praying, I was praying while I was washing the dishes. The line upon which I happened was not a distraction from but a fruit of prayer.
See? Sorted. I will write a book one day on spirituality for the busy. Perhaps in my retirement.
I spent most of the week on the phone and at my desk writing emails, chasing down leads and after background and quotes from people who might have been in a position to tell me something about this book business – yes, that book – the one that Cardinal Sarah wrote in part, and Benedict XVI wrote in part, on a single theme and with a single purpose in mind, but isn’t a “co-authored” work.
There was great determination to spin the thing just so, but little interest in answering straightforward questions about the affair. There are always people to run interference – for churchmen and bookmen alike – but at one point during the week, it seemed as though there were people running interference for the people who run interference.
Ah, well. Par for the course. It was quite a to-do, though. An edifying spectacle it was not.
In other news, KFC opened a place in Rome’s Tiburtina railway station. Good for them. It’s not the first or the only KFC in Rome, though. The one I know is in the Happio shopping centre at the corner of the Via Appia Nuova and Via Cesare Baronio. My nine-year-old gets a kick out of going there.
I don’t strenuously object when she asks to go, but I’m not making the trip across town just to try out a new place where I can get the same old stuff. I am excited about the Five Guys (burgers and fries) scheduled to open – before too long, we’re promised – right downtown. I’m not the only one, either.
Don’t ask me which day of the week it was. They all blended and blurred into one another, but what happened was this: I’d gone to the shops for groceries, and caught the No 663 bus on the way back, which runs on a loop from Largo Cirò to Piazzale Colli Albani. When I sat, I shifted the grocery bags. The milk tipped and rolled across the floor of the bus, and a boy of perhaps 15 or 16 – dressed in those silly skinny trousers with his hair floppily coiffed – interrupted his conversation (with a fellow human travelling companion) to collect the article and restore it to the bag. Twice. With a kind smile.
If he’s the sort to do an examination of conscience at day’s end, I suspect he’ll put something like: “Helped an elderly bumbler with his shopping” in the Good Deeds column. I’m 43. He can have it. God bless you, boy.
Romans are tolerant. At Mass one evening this week, there was a young man – clean-shaven and properly dressed, but evidently disturbed in mind – who gesticulated and carried on a quietly animated conversation throughout.
At the Sign of Peace, he made his way into the sanctuary. I didn’t see what he did while he was there, as I only noticed him when he was on his way to his seat – well, a seat – with the Sisters in the choir (stage left of the sanctuary). There he sat and carried on his quiet conversation and gesticulation. At Communion, he joined the line with the Sisters.
He held up the line briefly, to let a few people pass. Standard procedure, of course, is to let the choir Sisters communicate first, so they can return to sing. No one suffered. No one fussed.
No one seemed to notice. Life went on.
Communicated and composed, the Sisters sang a hauntingly beautiful choral Anima Christi. That is my favourite motet – Mrs Altieri’s dear friend from childhood sang it solo at our nuptial Mass. I cannot hear it without experiencing profound emotion.
This time, the line that struck me was: Intra tua vulnera absconde me (“Within thy wounds hide me”). Reflecting on its effect, a line from the De profundis came to me: Si iniquitates observaveris Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit? (“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”)
Christopher Altieri is Rome Bureau Chief and International Editor of the Catholic Herald