Even for the fortunate Catholic, there is perhaps only one opportunity to attend mass in a day. Imagine a place where God needn’t perform a miracle to literally provide a dozen or more opportunities for mass!
In Rome, churches abound, and by natural extension, so do masses, even during the week. There are MANY neighborhoods where churches are less than 50 or 100 yards apart. In the span of 15 minutes, you could visit 3 or 4 churches if you wanted to do so.
Such was the case, when I kept walking into church after church, and it seemed that I was stricken with a bit of the unlucky; I’d enter to find that mass was being celebrated, but already under way. I asked God if maybe I could find a church where I wasn’t going to be “crashing” a mass in progress.
Shortly after that, I found myself in a church I’d never been before — Basilica di S. Andrea della Valle — for a solemn mass presided by His Eminence, Joao Braz de Aviz, in commemoration of the feast day of San Giuseppe Maria Tomasi, buried there. I didn’t even know why the cardinal was there, since I hadn’t paid any attention to the sign announcing the mass (I just wanted to go to mass!), and I found it curious that following the entrance procession, the thurible with incense was carried to a side altar (where I later learned that the saint is buried) that I could not see from my position.
This visit to St. Andrew’s basilica also caused me to ponder the depiction of his crucifixion, martyrdom and burial behind its main altar, a series by Renaissance master Preti. Tradition depicts St. Andrew being crucified on a diagonal cross. Perhaps you’ve noticed (if you’ve visited St. Peter’s basilica) that one of the niches surrounding the main altar (and Bernini’s famous bronze baldacchino) provides a similar view of the Saint. He seems strong and manly in both representations; he’s not dwarfed by the telephone-pole-sized crossbeams. Rather, he is a substantial figure, and his posture points toward Heaven as he meets his reward.