When in Rome, you best get your churchin’ “straight from the tap” (Jeff Mirek c. 2011), so since my visit covered a Sunday, off to Mass I went.
The consensus among the hotel, guide, cabbies, etc. was to skip Saint Peter’s in favor of Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, in nearby Esquillino. Attired in my Sunday best (in this case long pants and a sleeved shirt – I still have some modesty and respect for tradition – hear that German tourist?) and allowing enough time to get lost, I managed to make the 10 AM just underway to a full congregation equal parts locals and travelers.
What I encountered was not so much a straightforward Mass but a gorgeous concert in progress, complete with an organ and full men’s chorus. Almost the entire Introductory Rites portion was sung and I counted my blessings.
However, one of the most welcoming aspects of attending Mass in a foreign land, or listening to one in a different language, is the shared experience. No matter the tongue or country, you celebrate a common ritual performed and witnessed by millions, more or less unchanged in structure for centuries (or at least Vatican II) that is understood by all in attendance. While I wasn’t sure of the exact readings or Gospel (forget about that Homily!) I was able to proclaim the Mystery of Faith and mumble through Our Lord’s Prayer, and of course act accordingly when the basket was passed. But my favorite part was when I got to turn to my neighbors, shake their hands, and exclaim “pace!” Surely that’s something everyone can understand?