This morning saw our group at various places in the city: some sought the ancient edifice of the Pantheon where the Novus Ordo of Paul VI was said; others sought Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini where a solemn high Mass was offered according to the extraordinary form.
Both groups converged at the Circus Maximus in the afternoon where we began a pleasant stroll towards the Porta Capena and the Via Appia. Before passing through the ancient walls of the city, we visited the Baths of Caracalla, which, even ruined, are magnificent in their extent and height. We had hoped to pay a visit to the Church of Nereus and Achilleus, having just read Pope Damasus’ hexameters in honor of them, but as we also experienced yesterday at Fossanova, this is a popular time for weddings!
So we walked past the church of these ancient soldiers and martyrs, and strolled out along the Via Appia. We stopped briefly at the church named for St. Peter’s words, “Domine, quo vadis?”, where we read from a text by Pseudo-Linus that explains this event. Then we made for the Catacombs of Domitilla, where a very kind German guide – who spoke Spanish fluently! – opened the place to us after hours and gave us a wonderful tour of the basilica of Pope Damasus and the catacombs upon which it had been built.
After dinner nearby, we read from St. Jerome’s commentary on Ezekiel in which he recalls the time when, as a boy, he would visit the catacombs that, almost totally dark, felt like the underworld itself. It is brilliant that St. Jerome quotes both the Bible and Vergil’s Aeneid to explain what he felt: Horror ubique animo, simul ipsa silentia terrent.
(For the collection of photos from Day 7 and from all previous days, please go here.)