Today we woke up to a strike. There's no forewarning, and no evident reason; they just get together to decide that today, and maybe tomorrow and the next day, will not be a work day. Today it was the Taxi Cab drivers who were on "strike". Tomorrow, it could be the buses, etc. Since we were scheduled to celebrate Mass at 8:00 a m at St. Paul Outside the Walls, which is a very far distance from here---actually outside the walls of the city of Rome---we were counting on having a cab to take us there. So, when we could not get any cab company to answer the phone, and just when it looked like we would not be able to get to this most beautiful of the four great Basilicas of Rome, a very generous member of the North American College Staff, Stefano, volunteered to drive us himself. We arrived just two minutes past 8 a.m., so it was clear that Stefano exercised some pretty creative driving skills to get us there safely and almost on time.
The Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma (Michigan), eight of whom are assigned to various ministries here in Rome, including two of them as nurses serving in the Infirmary at the NAC, joined us for Mass which was celebrated at the St. Benedict Chapel. I celebrated today's Mass for the intention of the spiritual renewal of all our priests and people in the example of St. Paul's amazing conversion. Msgr. Osborn, who has worked closely with several of these Sisters, gave a great homily on the beautiful Readings for today. These Sisters were all young, joyful and very accomplished in their ministries and studies. It was truly a joy to be with them, and get to know them a bit.
While we were having coffee and some pastries with them after Mass in the Snack Bar at the Basilica, Cardinal James Harvey, who is an American and is now the Archpriest for St. Paul Outside the Walls, happened to be walking by, saw us, and came in to say hello. It was great to see him and he very graciously spent a pleasant 10 minutes with us. As we were leaving we were given a beautiful ornamental brick from the previous Holy Door at St. Paul Outside the Walls for the Holy Year 2000. It is a great keepsake that I will make sure is displayed prominently someplace in our Diocesan Pastoral Center or in our Cathedral.
Since the taxis were still on strike, the dear Sisters, who drive a van, offered to take us to our next destination which was the Casa Santa Maria, a division of the North American College and the residence hall for priests who are working on their graduate degrees. Msgr. Osborn used to live there and for a period of time was the Superior of the House, so when he walked in, there was a constant sound of laughing and hugging going on, with the staff so happy to have him back for a brief visit. It is here at the Casa Santa Maria that the Pilgrim Center for travelers from the United States come to pick up their tickets for the Papal Audience each week. It is also a great opportunity for evangelization and catechesis, and these Sisters' smiling, joyful faces go far in non-verbally communicating the joy of the Gospel. Also here at the Casa we met the Polish Sisters who take care of all the food service for this large house. They couldn't let Msgr. Osborn leave without some fresh baked Polish delicacies.
From there Jeff, Msgr. Osborn and I walked past the newly-renovated and beautifully cleaned up famous Trevi Fountain.Because it was such a nice, pleasant day, there were crowds of people all around the Fountain, and we couldn't get close enough even to throw our three coins into the fountain. But we did get a photo op. Just past the Trevi Fountain was the Congregation for the Evangelization of People's, aka Propagation for the Faith (sometimes known as "the Prop" for short), where Msgr. Osborn had worked for the past three years before I called him back home. This was a good opportunity for Msgr. Osborn to reconnect with all the friends he had there on the staff of the Prop, but it was also a good opportunity for me to personally meet and thank Cardinal Filoni, the Prefect of this, the largest Congregation in the Roman Curia, for his understanding and giving permission for Msgr. Osborn to return home before he had completed his 5-year commitment. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has responsibility and oversight for more than 1,100 mission Dioceses throughout the world. The Prefect of this Congregation is also known as "the Red Pope".
After a while, it seemed like we were walking around with the character "Norm" from the "Cheers" sitcom, who every time he walked into the bar, everyone yelled "Norm!", because the entire Congregation was a-buzz with the excitement that Msgr. Osborn was in the building, and cries of "Msgr. Osborn" replaced those of "Norm", but with the same kind of enthusiasm and joy. After meeting each of the 30-some staff members, we had a 15-minute meeting with Cardinal Filoni in his beautiful office. What a great man, enjoyable to be with, and as an Italian, spoke impeccable English. We had a wonderful discussion about Canon Law and the importance of this particular Congregation, a discussion that I was particularly happy to have our young Deacon Jeff be a part of, for many different reasons, but not the least of which is because he is studying Canon Law at the graduate level now, as is our Deacon Max. It was truly a great visit with all involved, and in particular it was a privilege to meet Cardinal Filoni.
After this wonderful visit, Jeff, Msgr. O and I had a delicious pronzo in that part of the city, and I had my 4th bowl of pasta. "Delicioso!" Even though the taxicab strike continued into the afternoon, we were able to get a ride back from Stefano who was willing to come, pick us up, and take us back here to the NAC. We spent some time in the afternoon on various projects and of course some reposa. Deacon Jeff and I spent the evening together: we prayed Evening Prayer together, had dinner from the Seminary Refectory (which ironically tonight was hamburgs, French fries and baked beans), and had a very good discussion about Jeff's final discernment toward Priestly Ordination and his graduate studies which are well underway.
All in all, it was a great day----a full day---and a memorable day, the day of the Taxi Cab Strike for no apparently good reason! Let's hope they're back to work tomorrow. In the meantime, may you place all your trust today and always in the Lord.