If you don’t go to the papal ceremonies, most of the parishes are pretty pathetic for the Holy Week liturgies. Romans tend to be shabby at best about the liturgy. Roman organists have an ability to make the most majestic pipe organs, even the ones in Saint Peter’s, sound like a circus calliope. This is the culture that has given us Grand Opera, but the current taste in Church music almost makes one yearn for the Ray Rep guitars of 1970 Chicago. There is great music for this week in the Church’s repertoire, but in church Italians just seem to have a taste for the most base and vulgar tunes. And then they wear these moth-eaten shabby vestments left over from the 18th century and the clergy stumble around the sanctuary in their birettas scratching their backsides and yawning. It isn’t inspiring.
I always found in Rome that if one couldn’t flee the city the best place to go for worship, even on an ordinary weekend, is the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere that is the home of the Community of Sant’Egidio, one of the most phenomenal products of the Second Vatican Council. Over the years their liturgies have lost the primitive simplicity they had when they were in their own tiny sanctuary across the piazza behind the basilica, and have instead become a bit more “High Church” than I care for, but they are prayerful, intensely prayerful with soulful singing.
I was fortunate one year to find this Palm Sunday procession in the Borgo Pio, just outside the Vatican gates. I didn’t join them for Mass but the procession was lovely and sincere, even if it displayed the Italian’s unique skill for organization.