Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pandemonium at the Pantheon

Tourists are a heedless lot: despite the plethora of signs alerting them that the Basilica of Santa Maria ad Martyres is a Christian church, and has been for fourteen hundred years, they filled up the Pantheon with gawping incomprehension, managing to do everything that the signs clearly stated to be forbidden (talking, lying down, parading about scantily clad, taking photographs, etc.).

I must say, as a Christian pilgrim coming in for motives of prayer and reverence, it was dismaying to find it so. I did manage to find the holy water fonts and bless myself; no one else seemed even to have heard of the practice. So far as I could tell, the Blessed Sacrament is not reserved in the Basilica, presumably since it would be shewn no respect or even notice.

On a noticeboard I found a decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary granting a Plenary Indulgence for visits to the Pantheon during this its jubilee year, for it was on the 13th of May 608 that St Boniface IV consecrated this former house of idolatry a temple of Christ (having been given the building by the Eastern Emperor, Phocas). The Jubilee stretches from All Saints 2008 to the Vigil of All Saints 2009, so I made it!

Bizarrely, the general norms for gaining indulgences were given in Italian and English - but the special decree giving the conditions for this Jubilee was posted only in Latin! I suspect I was about the only visitor able to puzzle it out...

For the record, one may gain this plenary indulgence by: (1) visiting the Basilica for a liturgical celebration or other pious exercise; (2) coming as a pilgrim either alone or with others, spending a reasonable time in pious contemplation, and ending this devotion with the Lord's Prayer, Creed, and invocations of Our Lady and the Holy Martyrs.

It was good, even in that raucous unawareness, to stop and be silent in the midst of the madding crowd, lift my mind to God, and recall that this is the House of God and the Gate of heaven, a place of prayer and sacrifice, sacred to the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, through whom Our Saviour took flesh that He might suffer and save our race, and to His fearless Martyrs who defeated all the machinations of the Devil and the pagan Empire of Rome. I felt sorry for the tourists - what a treasure of grace and merit was available for them, all unawares. God bless.

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