Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Philly When the Pope's in Town

Pope Francis rolls into Independence Mall
For a vibrant, world-class city, Philly has a bit of an inferiority complex.  How could it not, in the twin shadows cast by those heavyweights, Washington D.C. and New York City?  

Maybe that's why Rocky Balboa resonates so much here.  The scruffy, down-on-his-luck prizefighter who gets one shot at the big time?  That was us this weekend, when the World Meeting of Families brought Pope Francis to our city.




For Catholics and the many non-Catholics who admire this Pope for his vision, his humility, his heart, and his willingness to shake things up, Philly was--for a shining moment--Caput Mundi.  

Here's what you experienced if you braved the Popepocalypse:

--Deliciously car-free streets.

--Singing in unexpected places.

--Pilgrims from around the globe.



--A rainbow of habits, vestments, and robes.




--Bobbleheads and Hug-a-Popes:




Families:




Enthusiastic college students:



photo by Melissa Kelly/Saint Joseph's University

--Eager but remarkably civil crowds.




Seriously beefed-up security:




--including Secret Service agents and even rooftop snipers.


Photo by Melissa Kelly/Saint Joseph's University

--A surprise papal visit to a certain Jesuit University:


Melissa Kelly/Saint Joseph's University

--Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.


One of many priests venturing into the crowd for the Euchrist
...and the adoration that follows Pope Francis everywhere he goes.



Monday, September 7, 2015

Flashback: In Fair Verona

Backstage, Arena di Verona

A friend recently asked me where in the whole world  I would live if money and job were no object.  I didn’t have to think hard about the answer: Verona, Italy.


Until last summer, I’d only been there once before, on my very first trip to Europe, when I was 22, travelling solo with a backpack, a Eurail pass, and an International Youth Hostel Card.  I fell instantly in love with Europe in general and Italy in particular.  



Pulling into Verona

And of all the Italian cities and towns I visited, Verona--charming, romantic, easily crossed on foot—struck me as the one in which I could most vividly imagine making a life.




I adored the medieval streets of its historical center.  I especially loved the way Verona’s citizens take their evening passagiata around the Roman colosseum in the center of Piazza Bra.  




Families strolling, small children kicking balls around, friends laughing and philosophizing, lovers arguing and embracing.  The happy commotion that continues until late into every summer night.




On that first trip to Verona, I was in the process of becoming. So much about my life was unsettled.  I had just graduated college and didn’t have a job or a significant other.  I didn’t know where I would be living once I returned back home.  Everything I saw on my travels seemed full of portent, and that was especially true in Verona, setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.






Last summer, when I finally got  to revisit Verona, I had of course changed more than a little.  But Verona's power over me hadn't diminished one bit.




Even Juliet's house still felt portentious.  I still got the same thrill strolling through its quiet rooms and standing on that balcony. 



Revisiting Casa di Giulietta, summer 2015
Now as then, it didn’t matter one bit that Juliet didn’t exist. To me, fiction was--and still is--at least as real as reality. Walking through the house designated as Juliet's, I could hear the echoes of her graceful step echoing in its stairways.  I could hear her voice even in that stone courtyard bustling with tourists and plastered with their hastily scrawled graffiti.