Pilgrim Guest AS the recipient of a number of letters from readers complaining that Holy Year penitential pilgrimages are being confused with having a good time abroad, I can only hang my head in shame. Yet (as they say) I have an alibi. The guest of the Dutch Air Lines and carried to Rome in a few hours by Constellation (having seen the key to the trip set by a stupendous meal in Amsterdam's famous "Five Flies" hostelry), I had no courteous alternative but to fall in with my hosts' arrangements which were largely a movement from famous restaurant to grandiose reception and grandiose reception to famous restaurant. At the same time I cannot honestly say I would have had it otherwise since we had a terrific time—and about five hours' sleep in five nights. Arriving home at the end of it all and expressing the fear that I must look all-in, I was assured that I had never looked better—which at least shows that we can make a very good penance of shortening sleep! As for the pilgrimage, the real difficulty was getting in the required visits to the basilicas and the required prayers— but perhaps I had better go again.
The Other Extreme f SHALL not, however, try to A emulate Mr, Fred Kendall Husband, whom I ran into during my visit to the San Silvestro Centre for English-speaking pilgrims and visitors. There he was sitting in a comfortable chair and with the soles of his shoes hanging loose. He had just reached Rome after walking all the way from the north of England and with £2 in his pocket, 33s. of which was used for the Channel crossing. Mr. Husband claims to be the King of the Tramps and he wishes to interest the Holy Father in the cause of world tramps. I was unable to get many details of his adventurous journey because Mr. Husband was only interested in reading to me extracts from his poetry with which one of his two haversacks was full. Between the extremes of a K.L.M. guest-pilgrim and the walking pilgrim tramp there are doubtless quite a number of middle-ways which I wish as many of my readers as possible to enjoy and profit by. The New English Centre THOSE who can make it must not fail to visit the above-mentioned San Silvestro Centre, hard-by the church for the English in the Piazze San Silvestro. There Miss DigbyBest° and Miss Curtis have created the most comfortable and hospitable of clubs with plenty of room, a cup of tea and solid furniture. I hope, in addition to the many amenities provided, that THE CATHOLIc HERALD will be on sale to pilgrims who would otherwise miss their weekly copy. Its a good place, too, to buy the rosaries, medals and souvenirs one naturally wants (though I know of an even better which will not publicly mention). Best of all, it's a home from home which everyone welcomes as he escapes by the skin of his tail one of the myriad hooting, racing little motorbikes which swerve away from one as one steps out invariably on the wrong side of the road.
Beware the Romans
FEAle there's no getting away
from the fact that the Romans are realty quite keen on making a good thing out of the good pilgrims. 1 am told that the prices of goods and services which the pilgrims must pay for have risen by sonic 20 per cent. This, added to the depreciation of the £, is a serious matter. Those who can speak Italian may be able to hold their own, but the Englishman who only speaks English will have a hard time. On the other hand the Vatican itself is doing everything possible to protect the pilgrims and prevent this exploitation. The Italian Government is also helping. I was present at the opening of the new pilgrims' village near the Ponce Milvio. One could not wish for more charming and tasteful quarters, and the cost will be 1,000 lire a day all included, the L being 1,700. It was freezing when I saw them, and I fear it may he boiling when most of my readers see them; but you can't have everything In buildings erected in three months. And they say the Italians are Lazy! Seeing the World ANE advantage of a hectic five days in Rome laid on in the grand fashion is that you do get a chance of seeing everyone—in this case from the Irish Prime Minister downwards. I was particularly interested to have the chance of a conversation with leading Italian journalists, including the most notable Catholic ones. I cannot say I came away very reassured about the future of Italy. still less of the world. Italy is nearer to the Iron Curtain and more exposed than we are and people are better informed. My own feeling is that the Italians owe a great deal to the moral leadership of the Pope. For what it is worth I repeat the answer of an Italian friend to my query about Mussolini as we walked under the balcony in the Palazzo Venezia:. " They miss him more than ever." However, he hastened to assure me that it was only his home policy they missed, not the criminal bellicosity of the man, Chamberlain and the Duce T HEARD an excellent story, which A is probably well known, but I missed it, about the Duce and Chamberlain. The Duce was trying to come to better terms with Chamberlain in exchange for a few favours. "Could you not persuade the French to let us have a little piece of Tune sia?" Chamberlain thought that might be possible. " And what about Corsica?" There again Chamberlain felt he could help. Shaking hands with glee. Mussolini asked for one last favour. " And would you let me have as a souvenir of our meeting your famous umbrella ? " " Good heavens, no." answered Chamberlain, " that is part of the British Empire."
Informative Conversations THE variety of life in Rome is illustrated by two conversations I had at receptions which succeeded one another. At the first I talked with the American Superior of a religious congregation who was able to give me a first-hand account of Warsaw, as he had visited it last year on a visitation to his Order. This year he does not think he can get a visa. His Fathers warned him that they were living on the edge of tragedy, and since he left one of them has been arrested, and no more heard of him. A little later I had a roost frank and interesting conversation with a highly-placed Vatican prelate on whether this was or was not a good time to proclaim the dogma of the Assumption. And I found all Roman ecclesiastics not only most knowledgeable, but extremely sympathetic about problems of unity and relationship with Anglicans in this country.
MY only regret is that my short
days (and nights) were so full that I was unable to visit the English College, as I would have wished. But I was the guest of the Rector of the Beda, which is very full and prospering despite the losses involved in the fall of the L. I rather expected to see flowing white beards at table, but everyone looked quite young. This I fear is not a sign that the students were so very young, but that I am growing so very old.
Coming Home COMING home, I felt at one moment that I was going to pay heavily for my good time. Our plane was due to land in Geneva where snow was falling very thickly. The pilot, doubtful about visibility, circled round and round, nearly tearing our insides out with the upthrust after steep banking. Then he decided to have a shot. When the wheels were within inches of the ground a good way along the runway. he suddenly ooened out his engines climbed rapidly, and decided to try Zurich 150 miles away. Even the passenger due to get out at Geneva felt relieved.
Aerial View LOOKING back, I believe that one of the best memories I shall take away is the aerial view of Rome. Had the Pope been walking in the Vatican Gardens I believe I would have seen him. And this is something no pilgrim of the Ages of Faith could have had.