Day five in Rome… and the reason we came in the first place. Jonathan’s ordination as a Deacon. We were at St. Peter’s at 8 a.m. this morning, and got a great location within the basilica, in front of the Altar of the Chair, where the ordination would take place. We were there so early the lights hadn’t come on yet, but slowly more and more got turned on, allowing for better and better photos. Around 9:30, the Mass started, with a procession of over 200 priests and 20 bishops were led through the crowd and filling the altar area. The setting was breathtaking – a full choir and band accompanied the massive organ, and the impressive size of the building made the whole thing fabulously grandiose. No photo can capture the scope of St. Peters. A few come close, at least providing some sense of scale, but unless you experience it first hand, you are impressed, regardless of your religious leanings. Being there for a special event allowed for even more spectacular photos thanks to the special lighting.
The ceremony lasted a little over two hours, with plenty of the sitting, kneeling, and standing that you would expect from a Catholic ceremony. Trying to describe the ceremony is nearly pointless – without the setting, the music, the grandeur, it would sound just like a long Catholic Mass. It was a special thrill to see an ordination though. Afterward, a reception was held at the NAC, with light snacks and drinks.
After that we headed back to the hotel room where we had a few hours to kill. We had reached a critical point in our trip. It was our fifth day – only our fourth full day – and we had multiple fantastic meals, seen St. Peter’s, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Augusto Imperatore, Museuo dell’Ara Pacis, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican museum, the Crypt of Santa Maria della Concezione, the Rome Hard Rock Cafe, a Papal audience, the Trevi Fountain, the Colleseum, the Forum, Piazza Navona, and been to a mass in St. Peter’s. We had been up before sunrise three days in a row. We had a room with a ceiling fan and our feet were tired and we were sick of being hot because of the unrelenting sun and having to wear long pants.
So after a bit of debate, we decided to actually feel like we were on VACATION – which we were, after all – and just do nothing fora few hours. We rested. We let our legs and feet rest, we read, looked at guidebooks to see what we wanted to see in our remaining two days and just relaxed.
It put us in a nice, relaxed mood for a quick prayer service at the NAC and then meeting for dinner at La Nocetta, a multi-course affair that we thought we were ready for. We began with paper thin slices of prosciutto and freshly made mozzarella. That was followed by penne arrabiata, a spicy tomato-based dish that I love. There was some extra left from this course, which they put down in front of me and a few other people and we did well in making the extra disappear.
We wouldn’t have done that had we know there was a SECOND pasta dish coming, a tradition in Rome for special occasion meals. The second pasta course was pasta carbonara. So to recap: sliced cured ham, cheese, pasta with tomato sauce, and pasta with egg and bacon. Time to waddle home, right? Nope. Up next was veal saltimbocca alla roma, a veal roast rolled with prosciutto and then roasted and served with pan gravy. Finally, dessert, which thankfully, was light: a delicious fruit salad with vanilla gelato.
At this point, many people left, leaving only myself and Meghan to hang out with Jonathan, his fellow recently ordained deacon, Mark, and several clergy from the Springfield, MA diocese. Someone ordered a digestiv (after dinner drink), and we followed suit with some limoncello. Amaro was ordered, a drink that I wasn’t familiar with. So naturally, I tried some after finishing my limoncello. It has a medicinal taste that is reminiscent of Jagermister and/or cough syrup, but in a good way. Jono ordered some grappa, another drink I had never tried, so I had some of that as well. Then the bottles of limoncello and amaro were left on the table by the proprietor of the restaurant, a gesture of goodwill to the clergy who had also picked up the tab.
So after a few glasses of wine and some limoncello, amaro and grappa, combined with a long day, I was feeling pretty good.
Then someone mentioned "green sambuca." I had been told – warned – about this stuff. I can’t even give you a link about it, since apparently not even Google has head about it. It was described to me as regular sambuca with additional herbs added to it, giving it a herbal, green flavor on top of its primary anise flavor to match its bright green flavor. The stuff is good. Like, "puts an end to the night quick" good. It is like drinking anise candy, which is why when one of the priests poured the remnants of the bottle into my glass and told me to "drink it down," I complied. Who am I to argue with a priest after all?
By the time we got to the hotel, I felt like my eyelids weighed a ton and nearly fell asleep in the elevator. This is when the secret of the green sambuca revealed itself: the combination of herbs basically creates codeine in the liquor. Needless to say, my head hit the pillow that night and when I awoke about 8 hour later – pretty much in the same position as I fell asleep in – I was VERY well rested and ready to tackle day six.