Peace Be With You…and Also With You…but not her so much…!

Posted on March 9, 2011


Dear Ash Wednesday,

I attended mass at Saint Peters at 5:30pm today. I waited for my friend to meet me and we headed inside the massive basilica to admire its beauty and try to figure out where the mass was taking place. We saw a large crowd of people and walked to the very back while standing on tip-toe (we both are not on the tall side of the height spectrum) and whispering to one another. A few people are let through and we slide up to the entry and at the same time ask each other if we need “tickets” or something for entry? We have both heard of this and were unsure where to obtain these free passes so we pressed on and got to the small gate. The guard asks us if we are attending mass and we say yes and he lets us through. That easy! Carefully and quietly we find our way to a pew and find ourselves a nice seat next to a small family and nice older lady in a bright green petticoat. The entire mass is in Italian and we each catch a few words here and there. The fact that we choose today and actually made it on time for mass on such a special day is miracle enough. All day today and yesterday I have been tossing and turning ideas about what to “give up” or “do” for Lent. Rome has done something to me since I felt no need to “stop” eating or doing anything for the short 40 days. I don’t over-indulge, I barely drink and the only fast-food is Macdonalds. I have no problems with any of these here, now, in this moment of my life. To make a commitment to sacrifice something or promise to do something has never been such an issue. I look forward to my turn to receive my ashes and am taken by surprise when I get closer to the front that they are placing a tiny dust of grey ash on everyone’s head. There is not black ash to the third eye like I was expecting. I don’t attend church very often, I am not so much a “practicing Catholic” but it seemed right to attend mass on this day. I even brought along my gorgeous hand-made Rosary beads that were sent to me all the way from home. I was unsure how to have them “blessed” but the  fact that they went to church with me in such a lovely place is beautiful in itself. My friend that was with wondered aloud to me about the black ash that she was used to where she was from. We shrug and continue to listen and try to interpret in our minds what we recognize for a usual mass. Some time after the Lord’s Prayer it is finally time to take Communion. In between this it is time to offer money so she and I scrounge in our coin purses for some coins to offer. I find only 1,44. Better than nothing so I hand it over once its our turn to give. The couple in front of us dropped a coin of 5 cents and I grabbed it and tapped his shoulder to return it. Not 3 seconds later my friend drops a coin worth 2 euro and we see his wife swipe it up as if it was her own. Really?! We are in church! My friend is completely annoyed by this and I am trying not to laugh. I assure her that she dropped it in with the other money but she still thinks otherwise. We get lost in this thought for a moment until it is time to smile to the people closest to us and tell them, “peace be with you” while shaking hands. And not with HER…My friend would not look at that woman! After I receive communion I return and sit quietly and I wonder what time it is. I catch myself slipping into other thoughts and I clear my mind and think of my family at home. I send them prayers and love and close my eyes for a short moment and am thankful for this opportunity to be present in this tiny fraction of my experience here in Rome.

Once mass ends we start to walk away and I realize that I am walking alone. I look for my friend and she is asking the woman about the 2 euro! She is so awesome for confronting her! She walks back towards me and I ask her what she said. “She thought that she was lucky to “find” 2 euro on the ground and pocketed it! I told you!” We laughed on the way out but stopped at the Holly water fountain. I was showing her my beautiful beads and we both came to the conclusion that literally “dipping” them would be a great solution. I hope that this is okay because it felt alright while doing so. I will get them officially blessed soon as I find out exactly what I am to do. We could barely figure out where to go to mass; soon as I can complete a sentence in Italian where to go and who to talk to about this it will happen!

As we head out the sun is going down and the sky looks like watercolors. The same lady in the green petticoat is walking towards us so we ask her to take our picture. “Bellisima!” she tells us and hands my camera back. There was no picture! She did not take anything! We laugh and then ask some others to take the shot. Some guards from the church approach us and offer. One of them was as gorgeous as the watercolor sky! He asks us if we speak any spanish and I tell him that I don’t but she does. “Where are you from?” he asks. “The States…” I reply while smiling for the photo that his partner was taking. His friend handed the camera back and they disappeared back into the crowd. Two words I guess, “Not interested!” We find ourselves in the piazza and the same lady in the green coat asks us to take her photo for her with Saint Peters as her backdrop. I don’t tell her she didn’t capture our photo but instead take hers and agree that the mass was beautiful. I would have enjoyed talking with this other Americana (she was from West Virginia) but all three of us were parting in different directions. I head home and am still contemplating what do commit to for Lent…Sacrifice is such a strong word for things that are non-essential like Nutella or coffee. I won’t really “miss” those much so it doesn’t seem like the plan. I thought about refusing fried food but I don’t want to offend anyone by not eating something either. I have to think up something!



Posted in: When in Rome