Easter in Rome
This shot of the English College schola in action outside St Peter's on Sunday, courtesy of Northampton Seminarian, brought back happy memories of the Easters I was privileged to spend in Rome as a seminarian. Compared to life as a priest in an urban parish, the experience of the Triduum was pretty relaxed, especially since I was never heavily involved with music or organising the liturgy. Maundy Thursday evening was spent happily rushing round the different altars of repose in the centro storico - the atmosphere in the darkened churches was always electric and I think on one occasion I visited well over twenty.
The Easter Vigil was followed by a party, which meant that seminarians (without the duty of saying two or three parochial Masses in the morning) retired at a very late hour. And then it was up early to walk to the Vatican for the Papal Mass and Urbi et Orbi - one of the few occasions when we were allowed to wear cassocks in the streets. The English College schola traditionally provided some of the music for the Mass and sat at the top of the steps leading into the basilica, just behind the outdoor altar. We normally sang a motet at Communion (such as Casciolini's Panis Angelicus) and a piece before the arrival of the Pope (a sort of 'gathering song'). In my day, at least, schola numbers were boosted by non-singing seminarians and guests (who were lent cassocks for the occasion). The combination of being so near the Pope and wearing choir dress meant that Easter morning was a popular day for taking photos - in fact, about half the photos in my seminary album are of the occasion:
Then we returned to the College for a long festal lunch and digestivi. Even this did not stop the piety of us seminarians, for most of us would dash to sit in choir at St Peter's for Easter Vespers (though on one occasion it was too much for one of my fellow students and he very obviously fell asleep during Cardinal Noe's homily, much to the canons' disgust). But, as you can see, the long procession made it very impressive (I'm one of the white blobs on the far right):