I arrived Rome yesterday afternoon. This trip has been totally last minute even though I was invited months ago to speak at the annual meeting of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas. You see, last month they informed the US speakers (two) that there would not be funds to cover our airfare. Given the economic reality of being a roving theologian, I needed a sponsor. And a sponsor is just what a friend found for me last Wednesday night, the same night that my renewed passport arrived. The fares to Europe are so high, that the last minute purchase didn’t affect the overall cost. So here I am and I’d better get my paper written by Saturday (or sooner).

But meanwhile, wanted to share with interested readers some quick notes so far. Btw, I prayed for all my readers at Mass in St. Peter’s this evening. Many thanks to you all!

So, my trip has landed me at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, also known as the place where Pope Francis lives. Here’s closeup of the entrance:

Not bad.

While guests are no longer automatically allowed to attend the Pope’s daily Mass, we do get to eat in the same dining room. I’ve stayed in residences in Rome before and never understood the sense of paying to eat in when there was much better food available at the local spots. But the food’s good here. And the company is even better. I’ve yet to meet the Pope, but I’ve seen him at dinner both nights. He’s very informal. Serves himself from the buffet. I understand that he used to sit at a more central table, but one night he arrived and guests had taken it. He now sits off to the side, quite inconspicuously. Well, as much as a Pope can be inconspicuous.

I love the monogrammed towels:

And when I asked for an iron, I got that typical Italian wagging of the finger back and forth which translates into, “Nope. Nothing happening. No way. No.” Instead they took my clothing and returned them ironed as they have never been by yours truly. I could get used to this….

I realized that I am turning into a bit of a Roman/Vaticanista when the thing that surprised me most about the DMS was not seeing the Pope at dinner, but the water pressure in the bathroom. This has got to be some of the best water pressure in Rome. Mundane, I know. But what does it tell you that I actually noticed it after living here six years (in different places) and visiting many times?

Some other fun things that I’ve seen – and I do wish I’d been better about taking pictures. I don’t know if I’m secretly Amish or something, but I still feel like I’m invading someone’s space when I take their picture. I’ll try to do better in the days ahead.

Scene one –

A woman having her hair done (by done I mean colored) is standing outside the salon with her hair wrapped in what looks like saran wrap. She’s having a smoke. In spite of her hair and the gunk it contains, she looks amazing. Not only does she look amazing but she’s chatting up some guy as if she were at a party. On the side of a busy Roman street. Figurati.

Scene two –

It’s been raining a ton. And it all comes at once, not unlike the shower with great water pressure that apparently only exists in the Vatican. The rain has stopped and the roads are slick. Here comes a cyclist along the Lungotevere (one of the busy roads that runs along the Tiber river). No helmet. Steering with one hand, smoking with the other. Navigating the traffic just fine.

Scene three –

Waiting for a friend at a small bar. Here comes a woman with a small puppy in her arms. Soon after, a man with a small dog. They sit together at the bar holding their pets. No, there’s no common thread of smoking – the dogs sat quietly and their respective owners obliged my request for a photo, as they sat having their drinks at the bar.

His and hers.

We may be casual in the US, but these three quick vignettes make us look rather uptight.

To close for the night, I’ll end with a photo of one of the windows here inside the Domus.

Wine is necessary. (They need [more] wine.) UPDATE – “One thing is necessary.”

For the Latinists out there, note the contraction in “Vnum.”

UPDATE – A reader below notes that I totally got this wrong and that it in fact refers to Luke, 10.42a. “One thing is necessary.” In other words, this is Mary and Martha. Mary has chosen the better part, even though this is a window in the Domus Sanctae Marthae (House of St. Martha). Love the irony. Apologies for getting it wrong. Thanks for the correction!

Assuming I’ve got decent Internet tomorrow and overcome more of my inner Amish, I’ll be back with a post for Day 2.