If you want some Italian that is easy to translate into English but is also immensely worthwhile, try working on the homilies of Pope Benedict. Admittedly I’d like a little more time than is available prior to doing the radio and television commentary for a Papal Mass, but they still manage to pack a powerful punch even watching the seconds tick by mercilessly. He has a great gift that enables him to see things that nobody else would notice and then to explain them in words of one syllable.
This morning, being the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, there was a special Mass from St. Peter’s, in which two cardinals and twenty-five archbishops received the pallium from Pope Benedict. This is a white woollen stole that is a sign of their authority, a symbol dating back to before the year 366. Vatican Radio’s live commentary for both radio and television across the world was in five languages. The ceremony itself was old, beautiful and a privilege to present to the English-speaking world.
The celebrations at St. Paul’s this afternoon were a complete contrast: equally beautiful but much more informal. However, just as the Pope this morning managed to convey so effectively in his homily that none of us is alone in our struggles through life and that the Cross and the Resurrection go together, there was an accidental foretaste of Heaven in St. Paul’s this afternoon when the Austrian choir and orchestra who will accompany this evening’s Mass had a few moments of practice. The basilica was suddenly filled with music that was so beautiful it was almost exquisitely painful to hear. As the notes of the instruments burst into the sanctuary, surrounding the tomb of St. Paul, I wanted it to go on for ever and never to stop.
It struck me that this is exactly what Heaven and Eternity will be like: so amazingly wonderful that it becomes all-important and beside which, everything else pales into insignificance.