Rome Diaries - Week 83

May 19, 2009

It’s definitely a day for miracle stories. During my morning visit to the embassy post office, I hear about a man who collapsed from a heart attack in a church in Naples. An ambulance was called, but the people in the church encircled him and began praying softly to San Ambrosio, the 4th century bishop of Milan. As the man lay on the floor, he saw an old man with a gray beard and odd-looking hat circling the group. Only later did he come to understand the old man was not a member of the congregation, but San Ambrosio, whom he had not heard of before. Then, in the afternoon, during an exercise in which the children being confirmed explain why they chose their patron saint, a boy tells of the time his father was in a hospital, near death, and Padre Pio, the friar who had the stigmata for fifty years, wandered into his room. After the visit, his father recovered against all odds. Finally, returning home on the bus, a young man, fiddling with his iPhone, tells me that he plans to go to a prestigious university in London. One reason for this is that his father asked him to solve an obscure riddle involving checkers and dominos; the student was asked exactly the same question in his interview with the university admissions board. They were astounded at his quick and accurate reply. Hallucination? Coincidence? I don’t think so, not in Rome.

May 23, 2009

Today the third annual Clericus Cup finals were held at Stadio dei Marmi, Enrico Del Debbio’s Fascist-era marble stadium, ringed with 60, twelve-foot high statues of athletes. Not that the players aspire to Olympian greatness, they are all priests and seminarians studying in Rome. Reporters have fun with the conceit, noting that infractions of the rules are often punished with a penalty of saying ten Hail Mary’s and the “owner” of the franchise happens to be Pope Benedict XVI. The competition was inspired by another pope, a former soccer goalie, John Paul II. Pontifical North American College’s team name is the North American Martyrs, their informal motto being, “Even when we lose, we win.”

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