Rome Reflections Day 4

At noon today, several of us from the CNWE contingent were on the rooftop terrace of our residence, while bells rang across the cityscape  beneath us.

And it felt like I was hovering over Rome, carried aloft on a current of breathtaking change.

Historically that’s often how it happens.

When I was teaching liturgy, I used to refer to the year 1967 as a turning point full of irony.  In 1967, Lutherans worldwide were marking the 450th anniversary of the Reformation.  At the same time, Roman Catholics worldwide were trying to make sense of the liturgical changes that were being implemented, sometimes too quickly and sometimes only in fits and starts, at the parish level, often by priests who had no idea how to explain what was happening, except to say “This is the new rule now and we have to do what the Church says.”

The fact was, Martin Luther had already anticipated most of these changes 450 years before — the presider facing the people, the Eucharist celebrated in the peoples’ own language, scripture readings in their own language followed by scripturally-based preaching (no longer what one liturgist called “moralistic diatribes or devotional ferverinos.”)   Everyone giving the greeting of peace, everyone taking part in the opening rites, more and (mostly) better music, and, oh gosh, not to forget widespread communion under both species, bread *and* wine.

So logical.  And it only took us 450 years to get there.

These graced and powerful days in Rome, the grace of the dialogue processes carried out in the context of the Synod, the winds of change and the fresh air of hope, should not be underestimated.

Indeed it. is. good. to. be. here.

Susan Roll

Rome Reflections Day 3

October 3, 2023, Roma.

Our spot in Rome is extraordinary. While the rooms are simple but spacious and lovely, we have an exquisite view from our rooftop terrace. We all gathered together last night for the first time to share a simple meal of bread, wine, olives, cheese and grapes. Breaking bread with CNWE is such a special time.

Several of us visited the Catacombs of Priscilla: Jeanie, Nancy, Louise, Susan, Roberta and myself. We walked 700 metres along dark narrow pathways into the period of the 3rd century. For me there was a sense of going back in time to a period that was so rich for the Christian community. From my readings/ understanding of history Priscilla was prominent in the church. Many suggest that she was a priest. The image of her in the mosaic clearly resembles someone praying, presiding over a ritual. She is acknowledged to be a wealthy woman who donated land for the catacombs. Similarly to tombs through time there’s a great range of very simple tombs to very elaborate.

First Nativity

Dating from the early 3rd century is the first known image of the Nativity. The image showing a character from the Old Testament confirms the messianic idea of the prophesy, of the universal annunciation.

At St. Praxedes

We walked back to our residence via the beautiful Villa Borghese gardens, stopping for wonderful drinks. At 4 pm, wearing our purple stoles, we all gathered at St. Praxedes for our ritual with WOW/WOC. We had an opportunity in this beautiful church to see the famous mosaic of Theodora. I was lucky to be accompanied by Susan Roll at that moment. She explained that the square surrounding Theodora meant she was still alive at the time of the creation of the mosaic. Though the last part of her name is not clear, her title is! Episcopa – the “a” indicates a woman and a bishop.


Following we mingled and celebrated on the beautiful rooftop terrace of Mecenate Palace Hotel. I spoke with journalist /writer Michael Higgins and activists from Italy, France, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, India as well as United States. 

Louise with spectacular view

The photo is of Louise Dowhan with the spectacular view behind her.

Some of the words of the service resonate still. Barb (WOC) asked, “Who can bless? Who can be blessed?” Inspired by a prayer:

“May we in CNWE use our power of wisdom, anger, humour, heartbreak and hope to comfort (and confront) this world, to create a kindom: a radically loving inclusion.”

To bless and be blessed. May it be so!

Mary-Ellen Morgenstern