Thursday, March 20, 2008

Singing in Italy

I have recently returned from a pilgrimage to southern Italy, taking in Sicily, Naples and Rome.

After a night in Palermo, we set off driving through mountainous scenery with roads lined by citrous trees to the ancient city of Agrigento. Here we visited the Valley of the Temples, a series of remains or reconstructions of temples from the period when Sicily was occupied by the Greeks. Some of these temples were stunning. I was asked by our pilgrimage leader to provide a 'spiritual moment' and so on the steps on the best preserved of all the temples the "Concordia" I sang the Kyrie eleison from the Mass Orbis Factor.

The day we spent travelling from Naples to Rome proved to be one of the highlights of the trip as we visited Monte Cassino, a Benedictine Monastery founded by St Benedict himself. It is set high in the mountains and was badly damaged during fighting towards the end of World War II. Happily it has been almost completely and very beautifully restored. We arrived to find the place shrouded in mist, which produced great atmosphere. We had our prayer service in the chapel of St Benedict and St Scholastica, which is decorated with stunning mosaics. I sang the Salve Regina to the solemn Benedictine chant. I was pleased to note that the High Altar in the main basilica is arranged for the celebration of Mass ad orientem, complete with big six and crucifix.

The highlight of our first full day in Rome for me was a Mass for our group at St John Lateran. Fr Bruce Williams OP celebrated (ad orientem) in a chapel to the north east of the High Altar with beautiful wood carvings of saints. It was wonderful to have our own Mass in this great basilica, the Pope's cathedral. During communion I sang the antiphon Tu es Petrus, which I chose considering the venue, considering that we had seen the Pope that morning and that it was the feast of St Gregory the Great.

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