We visited St. John Lateran, San Giovanni in Laterano, this morning.
The gracious basilica, set back behind a swathe of rough lawn, pavement for crowds, and hawkers of scarves and jewelry, has grown more dear to me with each visit. Huge and imposing the first time, it has revealed its beauty and history over the years. It is the Pope’s cathedral, his seat as Bishop of Rome, and is seen often on telecasts of sacred events.
It is also a location in my novel, The Magdalene Mystery, where more of the mystery is solved and more questions are raised. It is the home of a gift shop run by the Missionaries of Divine Revelation, an order of nuns called “the green sisters” because of their forest green habits.
I first met Sister Emanuela, an English nun of this order with a lovely Irish accent, about five years ago when I was pitching my first novel Pilgrimage to some of the shops in Rome. The next year she took us on a lovely tour of the Vatican Museums. We kept in touch. You just might see her in The Magdalene Mystery in that Laterano scene. It was good to see her today – her eyes alight with the same twinkle of joy she has always shared with everyone. We chatted, catching up on the miracles in our lives, stunned by the love of God. She gives group tours of sacred art and recently has been in demand as a speaker. She is on fire with the faith, a miracle among us. I always learn from Sister Emanuela. She has a way of putting things clearly, to the point, with a great generosity of spirit and always a healing sense of humor.
We left St. John Lateran and walked a few blocks to Quattro Coronati, the Church of the Four Crowned Saints. Once a medieval fortress, you step through two courtyards to reach the front door. Popes hid here when the Lateran was threatened. So touched was I by its intriguing history and the Augustinian nuns in residence who sing the daily prayer offices, that this church was a key scene in my first novel, Pilgrimage. By grace, we arrived for the last part of the noon office, a great blessing to hear them sing again.
We trundled down the hill toward the Coliseum but San Clemente was closed for lunch; it was after all nearly one o’clock. Alas, I was not surprised. This four-levels-of-history church is a popular one, run by Irish Dominicans if I recall correctly, and they have always kept the morning/late afternoon schedule. Sensible.
So we were sensible too, and headed for a bite, club sandwiches in an air conditioned bar, for the day was heating up.