This last Sunday many of us went to the Pantheon for Pentecost. Last year, when I was preparing my application for Rome, I met with a friend who had studied here a few years ago. One of the things that stood out to me was this Mass at the Pantheon. The morning of the Mass, I wanted (more than anything) to sleep in and go to an afternoon Mass. But I knew I had to go. I didn’t have much of a checklist for Rome, but if I did, this would be one of the items on the top of my list.
Christopher, a Notre Dame student studying with our program, wrote a beautiful entry for his personal blog about this mass, and I asked him to write a few words for this blog.
One of the perks of being in Rome is that we can attend things like the Pentecost Mass at the Pantheon, an opportunity that not many people get. When we were deciding where to go to Mass for Pentecost Sunday, there was little discussion as to where we would go – we were going to the Pantheon, of course! Why? Sure, it’s a nice church, plenty of history, but we went there specifically because of what happens at the end of the Mass. After having celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles, when “there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them” (Acts 2:3), we watched in awe as thousands of red rose petals were dropped from the oculus of the dome. As the petals fell, the choir sang “Veni Creator Spiritus,” and there was even a white bird that was flying around the inside of the dome amidst all of the rose petals (my friends tell me it was a seagull, but I prefer to think it was a dove). It was beautiful to be praying for the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts with that hymn, and indeed with the whole Mass, as we watched the breathtaking sight of thousands of rose petals fluttering towards us, as if we were witnessing our prayer being heard right in front of our eyes (and I think we were). Friends and others around me couldn’t hold back their joyful laughter, overcome with happiness at the beauty. After the petals finished falling, people gathered in the middle of the church, picked up the petals, and threw them into the air again. The wonderful blessing of being at the Pantheon for Pentecost is something that will remain with me for a long time, reminding me to stay open to the working of the Holy Spirit within me each time I remember the beauty of that day.