Rome Diaries - Week 42

From 2006 to 2011 Paulist Father Tom Holahan served as vice rector of the Paulist church in Rome. During that time he had the opportunity to spend time exploring the historic sites of Rome as well as the hidden ones. The blog features excerpts from this travel diary. A new selection appears each week.

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December 15, 2007

Food is the topic at a Christmas luncheon, but the conversation quickly jumps to starvation. The woman I am sitting next to had endured the Siege of Malta. The two-year blockade by Axis powers (Germany and Italy) brought many on the islands to the brink of starvation. My friend tells me about her mother cutting a small piece of meat into eleven tiny pieces so that each of her children could get some and about paying exorbitant prices for fresh produce from farmers who would sell what they had on the black market. “All this so we would not get scurvy,” she says, “and after the war, I heard of a priest who was the intermediary for delivering some money from a guilt-ridden farmer to his victim. We just survived. We just put up with it.” My luncheon companion then recalls for me the religious connection known and revered by all Maltese: the 1942 siege ended on the Feast of the Assumption (August 15) and the 1565 siege of the Ottoman Turks that began to subside on the Feast of the Birth of Mary (September 8). “Everyone thought we were done for but both stopped through the intercession of Mary,” she declares.


December 19, 2007

I stop at the building next door, the Ministry of Agriculture, to look at their Nativity set. It is in the Neapolitan style, which always shows the Holy Family surrounded by the ordinary life of an Italian city. This particular grouping seems to have a decided emphasis on figures who are selling produce. The Ministry is painfully aware of produce: When prices are low, farmers show up and throw vegetables at the building. So, seeing happy sellers of food surrounding the Christ child, I am sure, makes both sides very happy.


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