Saturday, 23 February 2008

Roma locutus est: causa (case!) finita est

This morning at 6.00am I started off for the next station church - Santi Marcellino e Pietro, two saints mentioned in the Roman Canon (Marcellinus and Peter). Marcellinus was a well-known priest of Rome and Peter was said to be an exorcist.They were martyrs during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian - 284-305AD. The present church is an 18th century reconstruction on the site of a number of previous reconstructions dating back to the time of the emperor Constantine (306-337AD): the church was built to honour the martyrs at their place of burial in the catachomb of St Tiburtius on the Via Labicana. Here Constantine buried his mother, St Helen or Helena: she had been the faithful supporter of her son's putsch for Imperial power and a key protagonist in his life (he had coins minted in her honour with the title "Nobilissma Femina" and "Augusta" inscribed); it was Constantine who influenced her to become a Christian and she also is credited with finding the relics of the True Cross in Jerusalem (as a result of which she is patron saint of archaeologists). She died around 330AD at the age of about 80 and was buried in a mausoleum at the church; the porphyry sarcophagus which contained her remains is now apparently in the Vatican museums - something to note for a future visit. St Helena is also of course the name of an island in the South Atlantic which is a British Overseas Territory and where a priest from my Diocese - Canon Michael Griffiths - is about to go to minister to the Catholics there.

My job this morning was to assist in being MC at the Mass at the church. I had to carry to the church the case containing all the liturgical books, vessels and other assorted goodies. I left earlier than the main group since I wanted to be there in good time and get a sense of the building. I walked past the Colosseum - you can see from the picture that it was still dark as I lugged the case past the Colosseum: the traffic was not colossal and you can see a very non-colossal buggy-van racing away on the road. Incidently, beside the Colosseum - though not in this picture - the Arch of Constantine can still be seen.

The Mass went well, though the occasional clatter beforehand due to my butter-fingers with plastic bottle and boxes could be heard. At that time in the morning these noises always seem to reverberate even more embarrassingly around the church. Mgr Dewane, spiritual director of the Casa, was main celebrant and preached on the Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son. Afterwards we packed up and moved off home, but not before I took a picture of the interior of the church: you can see the case there posing, smiling and waving. It had a whale of a time.

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