Friday, 19 December 2008

Time Travel to Madrid

I had a good time in Madrid when I was there at the end of September: a long time ago I know, but worth mentioning nonetheless. I was very fortunate because it turned out that the priests I was to stay with were building a new parish in the north of the city: as a result they were staying in an appartment right in the centre of town, on the Plaza de Oriente. Below is a view from the flat: in the distance is the new Cathedral and to the right the Palas Real.

As a result I ended up having to walk only 3 minutes to classes every morning, on the Via de Arunel, unlike the 20 or so minutes I had to travel for class in Salamanca. The classes were intense, one-on-one, but I learned a lot. Happily I ended up getting good marks at the Intermedio-Alto level. My reading of the language is much better - and it means I can read the works of my Director, Luis Ladaria, and other people whom he has directed in studies concerning St Hilary.

Madrid is a fine city. I was able to use my Spanish alot and also do some sight-seeing. The Prado, with its fine collection of art, impressed me deeply. I spent some time looking at Velázquez, El Greco, Goya, Murillo and many others (including a tour in Spanish from one of my Spanish teachers of Picasso's Guernica). I especially enjoyed Murillo, and his intimate, gentle portrayal of scenes from the life of Our Lord and the saints, bringing out the humanity deeply, simply, while combining these sometimes with scenes of Divine glory. Amongst many I very much liked the picture below of the Holy Family:


This picture, not exactly the best in the world, I took at the weekend when the river Tiber rose to its highest level in 40 years. The bridge in the distance gives some indication of how high it got - normally one can see most of the supports of the bridge.

Another fascinating aspect of this was the impulse of the Romans to take their passaggiata to see the spectacle and enjoy it. When something dramatic happens here, they all gather round, making it feel like a family event. There were streams of people, young and old, groups, couples and individuals, going to and fro to observe and record the river. I suppose it happens all over the world, but there is something distinctive in the festive manner in which they do these things here.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Adveniet Christi Nativitas

Babbo Natale is Italian for Father Christmas. He is a tradition here in Rome too, with even young people dressing up as him and skating around the city.

The city really does take on the sense of preparation for Christmas during Advent. Everywhere there are large Advent wreaths in churches and basilicas. At the church called Ara Coeli, there is a remarkable, rather trussed up statue of the Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus), venerated by many Romans. At the Piazza Navona, the square is filled with stalls selling various goodies - from food and drink and gareish decorations to crib sets and impressive extras for these scenes of the Nativity. Most churches set up their own Nativity scenes - with mountains, houses, scenes of town and village and country life, animals, people, caves, flowing water, lights and many a variation thereof. The church of Ss Cosmas and Damian takes the biscuit: they are worse than even Sainsbury's or Tescoe's. Those supermarket chains start their Christmas display in November or even October. The church of Ss C and D have their crib scene up all the year around - but it is worth seeing!


Yes, hello. I haven't done this for a while. I have received numerous comments from friends concerned that I had never quite made it out of Spain. They are usually quite disconcerted to find I am not languishing in some dark Spanish gaol.

I got back to Rome at the beginning of October and since then have been plodding away at my work. That's probably why I haven't been doing a lot on this blog! My laziness in that area hopefully is balanced by my industry in the other...

I haven't been to many exciting places either so have not many splendid photographs to put on. However I did manage to take some photographs of the River Tiber in fuller than full spate. There has been a prolonged deluge of rain which raised the Tiber to levels not seen for 40 years. It was fairly dramatic. I will post some photos later. There were even large floating barges and bars which were dragged away, smashed, sank or wedged into the arches of bridges. Sadly, also a yound Irish man fell in and was drowned. Requiescat in pace: and may his family have the comfort and peace of Christ Himself.