That's the thought I've had several times since my arrival Tuesday afternoon. After the long flight everything seemed sort of surreal, until dinner, when I looked around and it hit me - I'm really here. I'm staying at the Casa Santa Maria, which is the residence for American priests pursuing graduate studies in Rome. This is where I lived when I was here in 1997 to study Latin with Fr. Reginald Foster, the (in)famous "Pope's Latinist".
The Casa is in an incredible location: It's right around the corner from the Trevi Fountain, and next door to the famous Gregorian University:
The Casa's also about a block and a half from the Piazza Venezia, which is the heart of the histori downtown center of Rome. As you walk down into the Piazza from the Casa on the via del Corso, you see this:
The Vittoria Emmanuele monument is dedicated to King Vittorio Emmanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy. It's certainly imposing, but many Italians think it's a bit over the top.
In the same piazza is the Palazzo Venezia, which is (in)famous because Mussolini used to harangue the crowds in the Piazza from it's window:
So, yesterday morning my adventure began in earnest. I arose early in the morning and left with two friends, Fr. Joe Shenosky (who was a classmate of mine at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia) and Fr. Elias Carr (who is a friend of mine from back in grad school at Catholic University), who are both pursuing graduate studies in Rome and live at the Casa. Our destination: St. Peter's:
We went to St. Peter's to offer Mass. Specifically, we had made arrangements to offer Mass at the Clementine Altar, which is the altar in the crypt of the Basilica immediately behind the tomb of St. Peter. There's no altar at St. Peter's closer to the tomb itself than this.
Behind the grille above the altar is the stone of the back wall of St. Peter's tomb.
So, Frs. Shenosky, Carr, and myself offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and I fulfilled a dream I've had for 10 years:
So that was the beginning of my first full day in the Eternal City. I'll have more later, about my visits to the Roman Forum and the Basilica of San Marco. But I'm off to Ravenna later today!