I've been in Rome the last few days, with my friend Fr Whinder, hence the lack of posts, though I've not been too regular of late, so perhaps you didn't notice! I normally go to Rome in the winter and I thought this year I would go just before Christmas, to do some shopping and also to celebrate my birthday (12 December). This I spent in the little Castelli town of Monte Porzio, just outside Frascati - a rather unprepossing place but with great romance for 'Old Romans' since the English College had its villa here between 1614 and 1917. One can imagine some of the martyrs or Cardinal Wiseman (who dearly loved the place) walking its cobbled streets, popping into the Duomo and having the sort of sublime antipasta that we were treated to on Wednesday. Several old ladies greeted us as we made our 'pilgrimage' - they recognised us from previous visits. I suppose two English priests can't be too common a sight in a little place like Porzio. One started talking about the Cardinal Duke of York, which always is rather touching, and the other enthused about the Marian shrine beside the old College villa, which she cares for (in thanksgiving for a miracle that Our Lady worked for her sister).
Of course, on returning to city, I was sad to discover that Cardinal Stickler had died. I remember seeing him around Rome when I was a seminarian: at the annual Station Mass celebrated in his titulus of San Giorgio in Velabro and also at a Pontifical High Mass he once celebrated at San Pietro in Montorio. Requiescat in pace!
I couldn't believe how quiet Rome seemed - but then most places seem provincial compared to the bustle of London. There weren't even that many tourists. Speaking to several priest friends, I sensed great excitement about the subtle but important changes in Vatican ceremonial and the new Encyclical. One said that listening to Pope Benedict was like sitting at the feet of a Doctor of the Church.