Pre-Lenten Days in Roma

by mschwerdt on March 15, 2012

In the third week of Lent, it can be helpful to reflect back on the beginning in order to recall the enthusiastic and resolved spirit with which we entered this penitential season.

In Rome, the tradition of Mardi Gras is alive and thriving, though here it is known as Carnivale and does not just include “Fat Tuesday,” but instead includes all the days from the Feast of the Epiphany to Ash Wednesday. Children dress in costumes, confetti is constantly covering the streets, and there is a kind of celebratory mood that cannot remain unnoticed.

In the last days of Carnivale, a group of students, including myself, left the villa early in the morning and rented bicycles for the day. We spent six hours joy-riding all over the cobblestone streets of Rome video-taping each other en route. We only stopped for a picnic lunch and a splash in a fountain. As dusk came, we were sadly forced to conclude and  arrived back at the villa with exhausted limbs but happy faces.

The following two days were especially inspiring as it was the Consistory of Cardinals. Some students were so fortunate as to attend the investment ceremony on Saturday and the Mass of New Cardinals on Sunday. Also, it is only during the Consistory of Cardinals that the papal apartments are open to the public. It took a while for us to get in, and only then for a brief time, but it was well worth it!

Also on Sunday, nearly half of the student body met at the church Chiesa Gesu Maria for a High Mass complemented by a British choir. We were joined by our Theology professor, Monsignor Soseman, and fellow friend, Deacon Sam. After Mass, we enjoyed refreshments, walked to St. Peter’s to pray the Angelus with Pope Benedict XVI, and then hopped from one eatery to the next for lunch, gelato, and pastries—a fat Sunday before a fat Tuesday.

Finally, Fat Tuesday arrived—the last day of Carnivale.  After our Art and Architecture class with Dr. Connell, we made our usual habit of wandering all over Rome. In the evening, there was a thrilling equestrian event at Piazza di Populo. All the students met to witness the last events of Carnivale. After about an hour of watching excellently trained horses in a ring with master riders, skilled swordsmen, and leaping fire, we were all happily surprised by a ten minute show of some of the best fireworks we had ever seen! The crowd of hundreds of people roared with applause! We enthusiastically cheered and whooped with TMC flair. The event came to an abrupt end, and we made our way back to the Villa where we were permitted to use the kitchen to cook up breakfast for dinner in celebration of the day. The girls whipped up Italian-seasoned potatoes, bacon, and crepes with toppings, including homemade whipped cream! It was a true feast and topped the evening of our Fat Tuesday leaving us ready and eager to enter the Lenten season.

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