May 3, 2009
A text message alerts me to a 9:00 PM organ recital at Santa Maria degli Angeli – just across the street. Such opportunities crop up out of nowhere. In this case, the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music is holding their final event of the season. The magnificent organ, purchased with funds from the Jubilee Year 2000, fits its grandiose surroundings, the main rooms of the Baths of Diocletian, redesigned by Michaelangelo. It is the handiwork of Barthelemy Formentelli, who hews to the rigorous methods set forth by Dom Bédos de Celles in his 18th century treatise L'Art du Facteur d'Orgue. Although the organ is fitted sideways into the Chapel of St. Bruno (the instrument was bought as “distressed” merchandise when another church backed out of the deal), it’s silvery and sometimes surprising sound makes full use of all 77 registers. Tonight’s piece, Couperin’s virtuosic Messe Solemnelle, alternates between theatrical baroque and unaccompanied Gregorian. After a grateful ovation for this free concert, the crowd slips away quickly from the towering vaults of the church. Most of Rome never knew it happened.
May 8, 2009
A cardinal is coming to confer Confirmation on our gathered teenagers and a few adults. It’s not a good thing to be found “coloring outside the lines” when a cardinal presides. One young man insists on having Oscar as his saint’s name. This happens to be a bit embarrassing because, although the slain Archbishop Oscar Romero is a secular paragon of all the virtues Confirmation endorses; he bravely stood up for the powerless and poor, but he has yet to be made an official Catholic saint. An alternative patron will have to be chosen. On the other end of the spectrum, one young woman keeps trolling the internet for off-the-beaten-track angel names such as Uriel and Azrael. I tell her the name must occur in the Catholic version of the Bible, although, by and large, angels make impeccable saints.