Christmas in Rome

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As bucket list items go returning to Rome and Romulas “luxury suite in Trastevere” was right up there at the top of the list. At Christmas with tickets to the Basilica Vaticana with Santo Padre Francesco presiding??? This wasn’t even in our wildest dreams.

Our hosts in Rome, Romula and Claudio, moved Heaven and Earth to find tickets for us. Their efforts alone were blessings. This is Rome and great cities are first of all made by great people. The history, the architecture, and the food are all products of human endeavors. Ahhh! The food!!!

The first bite of the mussels at Osteria Der Belli had me saying, “This is Italy!!!” right out loud. The broth was a perfect balance of sharp saltiness backed by heat and rounded off with garlic. The signature dish at Der Belli, tagliarini of sea bass and cherry tomatoes, was as good as the sample we had the first time we were in Rome. The pasta is homemade and in Donna’s opinion, “The best I’ve ever had!” The proprietor’s sisters make it in a nearby shop.

Rome is a city to consume on your feet. The French couple we shared a table with at Enzo’s agreed. “I walked 9 kilometers yesterday, and 8 today. I can no longer feel my feet!” We use a different measurement system, but my body feels every step of the 126 floors we climbed in two days.

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Window shopping and visiting neighborhood churches consumed most of our time. Well, that and trying to choose which beautifully atmospheric cafe was most likely to serve the best food. The one with thick steaks displayed in a refrigerated case and candles on every table got Donna’s vote.

I had always known the Pope held a Christmas Eve service in front of The Basilica. That communal experience was attractive to me. To experience Christmas Eve mass inside The Basilica with Pope Francis presiding was never a consideration. Donna, with the kind assistance of Romula and Claudio, had other ideas.

Having experienced this mass I can only tell you I was surrounded by overwhelming beauty. To hear what is a very simple and universal story in that setting will take time to sort out. I arrived and left with the same thoughts.

Every mother deserves to hold her child for the first time with joy in her heart, and eyes full of hope. Every father who looks upon his child’s face deserves to know the pride he feels will extend into a limitless future. If we close the door on Joy, Hope, and Potential, it really doesn’t matter what beliefs we profess.

I heard the sounds of many languages being spoken inside The Basilica. Within that vast lavish testament to faith Pope Francis carried a newborn Jesus through the throngs and placed him in a manger. The wonder was undeniable.

Every night a child is born. Mothers and fathers experience that primal joy. They hope, often against all odds. They dream of an unlimited future. They pray for safety.  If we have any sort of faith in anything at all, we should join them.

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