St. Paul’s is located in the center of Rome, within the Aurelian walls of the ancient city (hence its name). Both the defense and interior (Deputy Premier Salvini’s office) ministries are two blocks away; the Quirinale, the presidential palace, is a short walk away. (Those of you who are familiar with The Episcopal Church’s 19th century “colonial period” may understand the reasoning for why its wealthy American benefactors located this church in the heart of Rome.) The disadvantage is that it is not a residential area, and it takes time for our parishioners to get here.
Our central location therefore oddly can work against community formation, as weekday activities are difficult to schedule. The primary ongoing formation program is Wednesday Within the Walls, which thanks to more frequent live streaming is increasingly called St. Paul’s Without the Walls. In informal rotation are evenings of bible study with refreshments, discussion of a topical article, Q&A sessions on all things Anglican, pot-lucks, and more.
This Wednesday, we experimented with sacred poetry reading. People shared poems that speak to their relationship with the sacred and nourish their hearts. We heard readings in Italian, English and French. Poetry is a spoken art, and even if we all didn’t understand the words, their sound could still touch the soul. The most delightful reading was from Dante’s The Divine Comedy, in Italian of course! After the reading, the Italian parishioner told the story that Dante is read over three crucial years in school, as young people move from early adolescence to the beginnings of adulthood. If taught well, Dante ends up informing the youthful journey from awakening passions to mature sacred love. It was a beautiful witness of one young person’s journey to loving God. This was just one of the stories told this evening as the Holy Spirit rested gently on our hearts.