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Rome Diaries - Week 101

March 30th, 2010

A lucky glance inside Chiesa Nuova alerted me to an upcoming performance of Pergolesi’s oratorio Stabat Mater. This church, built to reinvigorate religious fervor durin the Counter-Reformation is the perfect spot to listen to the emotional musical laments of Holy Week. Saint Philip Neri, who invented the short, but powerful oratorio style to educate a cultured but irreligious of Rome, would be proud of his successors. Right after an sonorous opener by Vivaldi, a priest of the saint’s congregation takes the pulpit and gives an impassioned discourse on the sorrow of Mary at the foot of the Cross to prepare us for the text that will be sung this evening.


March 31st, 2010

Like hurricane victims, every refugee has his story. Today I listen to the account of a young man whom I met after he was asked, out of a crowd of tourists, to take a picture of a baptism I was attending at Santa Maria Maggiore. He told us he was from Sudan and then confessed that he had always wanted to become Christian. By email, we set today for a meeting. His life began unraveling when he went into the hospital for a heart valve operation. After he was released, his job contract as a field engineer was cancelled; he was deemed unfit for the work. This prompted him to review his life and he decided to use his severance pay to leave Sudan, become Christian and begin a course of studies in France. The day after he paid for his first classes there, his passport was stolen. When he returned to Khartoum, the lack of a passport and his time in France got him arrested. He was able to escape only through bribery, but this left him destitute. He believes he is being punished for living a selfish youth and the telling of his story brings him to tears. “I get one meal a day where I am staying, but that is enough for me. I don’t like getting anything for free,” he says. It’s possible he will be given asylum in Italy (where he tells me he has a son) and he’s only in Rome awaiting a decision on his case. I give him a book on the Catholic faith; it seems too little, but it’s what he wanted.


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