Soliloquy in an International Cloister

Watch your step as Brother Lawrence takes you inside the monastery walls of a five hundred year-old international order. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wish you had ignored your hormones and joined the monastery.

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Location: Rome, Italy

24 March 2013

Hail to the mischief

Miss Chief
Several of my brothers and I attended the Installation Mass for Pope Francis last week, along with about 200,000 other people. When the date of the Mass was announced, it was said that no tickets would be issued so the first to arrive would get the best spots. For whatever reason, the Vatican reversed course and did offer a certain number of tickets—free, as usual—and we managed to snag ten of them. (As an aside, this is not the first time I have heard from the Vatican that no tickets were available, only to have them magically show up a few days before the event. Do they do this to throw off the scalpers? Who knows?) The people with tickets were seated in the front half of St Peter Square, while those without tickets stood in the back half.

A short time after we were seated, a religious sister walked over and greeted us. Then she asked us for a favor: she came here from Sicily with a group of her sisters, but they didn't have enough tickets to get them all in. Would we be so kind as to give her our tickets so that she should get the rest of her sisters in? As a law-abiding American, I resisted at first, but when she batted her baby-blues and promised to bring our tickets back, my ethical inhibitor crashed and I handed it over. Fast-forward half an hour. Sister was now surrounded by a group composed mostly of people who definitely were not sisters (note the two priests in the foreground of the picture). Also, notice that the scarf around her neck clearly reads "Croatia". So Croatia is now in Sicily? Finally, she was still holding my ticket when this photo was snapped. To paraphrase Sir Thomas More to Richard Rich: "Why Sister, it profits one nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for a papal liturgy?"

I should point out that sister was not the only one trying to recycle tickets. We were also approached by a priest for the same reason. In the end, no one was deprived of his or her seat because of this. Our section was only half full so they filled the rest of the seats with people from the standing room section. Oh, and after signaling to sister, she finally did return my ticket.

This incident reminded me of another legendary sister in Rome back in the 80's and 90's. This one was elderly, about 5 foot-tall and had a sweet smile. She would regularly attend the Pope's Wednesday audience, but had a difficult time seeing over the people in front of her and had little chance of getting close to the railing if the Pope happened to go by in his Popemobile. She eventually developed an effective technique for getting up to the railing: she would prick the butt of the person in front of her with a hat pin. He would naturally turn to find the source of the pain, and she would take advantage of the situation to get in front of him. This would go on until she reached the railing. Rumor has it that this dear sister was eventually invited not to attend any further audiences.

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