GIORNO DEL RINGRAZIAMENTO
While Italians seem to have more than their fair share of holidays, Thanksgiving remains a very American experience. I was very grateful to have a place to go for Thanksgiving this year. My friend Fr. Michael Wurtz, CSC, was kind enough to invite me over to the Casa Santa Maria for Thanksgiving. The Casa is a house where many American priests live who are studying for advanced degrees in Rome. It was a beautiful Thanksgiving Day in Rome — sunny, the high temperature for the day was near 70 degrees. It was also a very full day of celebrating — there was a breakfast with some of Father Michael’s friends around 9 AM, Mass with Archbishop Tobin at 11:15 AM, social following, large lunch, and digestivi outside. I wasn’t walking home until after 5 PM!
While intellectually I knew that Thanksgiving was very much an American thing, it was still surprising for me to find that it was just an ordinary Thursday for the Italians. It definitely felt like Thanksgiving to me, but I had the sense that somebody didn’t get the memo! It has been years since I missed Thanksgiving with my family, so it was a real consolation to be with Americans that day. Fr. Michael has been a good friend since we lived together in college over 15 years ago. I reminded him that we have a tradition of spending Thanksgiving together. Right around the year 2000, when Michael was a student at Moreau Seminary and I was studying at Saint Meinrad, I would make the much shorter trip to northern Indiana (rather than Iowa) for Thanksgiving. There was even one year when a little group of us made a pilgrimage to Michael’s hometown of Pocahontas, Arkansas. (They are known for their pie!)
I was deeply impressed last Monday morning. The students from our Greco-Roman program (not to be confused with our Roman-Greco program) had asked me to take them to Saint Peter’s Basilica for Mass. 29 out of 30 of them were waiting in a deserted Saint Peter’s Square when I arrived at 7:30 AM. This group was in the Irish Chapel, and it was wonderful to see them. Three or four of the students in this group lived on the dorm floor last year, and I knew some other students from different things. The students seemed to enjoy the experience, and I appreciated such a pleasant reminder of home.
CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM . . .
It was beautiful to come to church Saturday evening for First Vespers on the First Sunday of Advent. I woke up that morning suddenly aware that 36 years of my life have already passed. Vespers at Sant’Anselmo begin each evening of Advent with the Latin hymn “Conditor Alme Siderum” (“Creator of the Stars of Night”), and it was hauntingly beautiful. We processed out of church to an organ and trumpet combo playing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, and I knew that a new season of grace has begun.
Many friends (religious, priests, and laity alike) back in the States are experiencing the third edition of the Roman Missal for the first time. (The English Chapel here at Sant’Anselmo has actually been using it for a couple of months.) I’ll get a taste of it celebrating Mass with the UMary folks later today. While change is always a challenge (as anyone who lives in a foreign culture can attest), I hope that the liturgical focus of the season is not lost amidst the practical adjustments of following pew cards to avoid mangling responses: preparing to greet the Lord Jesus, who makes all things new (cf Rev. 21), the One who is, who was, and who is to come. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD . . .
While I do love Italian food, there is something to be said for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. The Italians didn’t quite know what to do for pumpkin pie, but everything else was just fantastic. Pictured above is my Thanksgiving plate at the Casa Santa Maria. The picture isn’t so great (I was quite deliberately trying not to look too much like a tourist!), but you get the idea. My mother’s famous ice cream dessert was (sadly) nowhere to be found, but it was indeed Thanksgiving, nonetheless.