Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost at the Pantheon

Today's post is from the archives... enjoy!
Today I am pleased to welcome Jessica Lawlor as a guest blogger.  Jessica is a student at Temple University, and she is currently studying in Rome.   

On Sunday, I took advantage of an amazing opportunity to attend a very special Pentecost mass at the Pantheon. “What’s so special about mass?” you might ask. This mass was different because at the very end, thousands of red rose petals were dropped from the oculus of the Pantheon’s dome. The roses symbolize the coming of the Holy Spirit and fiery tongues.

Growing up Catholic, I regularly attended mass, so naturally I was very excited to experience mass in a different language in a foreign country. I’ve taken Italian for two semesters now, so I have a bit of the language under my belt, but I’m eager to learn more. I felt that mass might be an interesting place to try out my language and listening skills, since I’m already familiar with what happens during mass.

We arrived at 10:10 a.m., but were able to stand in the front row of all the people standing. As we arrived, there were hundreds of tourists waiting outside the Pantheon and we were a bit nervous that we might not get in, but the security guards were letting mass attendees move right through the line. Standing inside the Pantheon about to attend mass was an absolutely surreal feeling.

The mass began and I was struck by how beautiful everything was: the location, the music, the prayers, and even the crowd. Mass went on as normal (although it was a bit more difficult to follow than I had anticipated!) and as soon as the last communion was given out, everyone’s heads immediately turned upwards toward the dome.

Slowly, hundreds of tiny rose petals fluttered down to the floor of the Pantheon. As the procession made their way out of the church, the center of the Pantheon was opened and the crowd filtered in. After the crowd filled the entire Pantheon, hundreds and hundreds of rose petals fell quite quickly raining on the entire crowd. I was in awe as I looked around me and saw everyone laughing and picking up rose petals. Many people were posing for photo opportunities and others were gathering rose petals to bring home with them. I made sure to grab a few myself to press in my Rome scrapbook.

The wonderful thing about this mass is that it’s not heavily advertised, so it’s not filled with tourists. The Pantheon wasn’t crowded or uncomfortable; it was absolutely beautiful. I’m so glad that I got to experience such a wonderful and special tradition during my six weeks in Rome.

Jessica, thank you so much!  Please check out Jessica's home blog, From Philly to Roma, for more updates on her adventures as a student in the Eternal City, and you can follow her on Twitter, too:  @jesslaw.   

And for more fantastic photos of Pentecost at the Pantheon, check out   I think I spotted Jessica in one of Susan's photos.  Clearly they need to meet! 

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