By Clare Myers
VATICAN CITY — It was nearly 100 degrees outside, the bus was overflowing with people, and I was late.
I had just come from running errands and I was squeezing in meeting up with a friend in between my internship at the Catholic News Service Rome bureau and grocery shopping. I thought that after dinner I could continue doing research on an article I was writing on a pontifical council. I barely had time for this other appointment, but I had promised.
Through the blinding glare of the sun I spotted the priest I was meeting under the Arch of Constantine, right next to the Colosseum. I waved and went over to him, and we chatted as we walked away from the chaotic mass of tourists and souvenir vendors to a much quieter area across the street, a church connected to a monastery and a convent — a place I had never been before.
We were there to help the Missionaries of Charity with dinner at their soup kitchen, which was established to fulfill Blessed Mother Teresa’s mission of serving the poorest of the poor. It is a mission praised by recent popes.
In several months of living in Rome, this was my first time meeting the Missionaries of Charity. Speaking with them, I saw something different, something rare: true joy in pure simplicity.
In the Eternal City, just as everywhere in the world, it is easy to get caught up in trivial things. Tired families jostle tour groups for the best spot to see the Roman Forum; older couples page through guidebooks for information about the church they’re looking at while hordes of teenagers on school trips scan centuries of history through the lenses of their cameras, not truly seeing the Trevi Fountain until they put an Instagram filter on it days later.
Perhaps these things are typical of any big city or tourist destination. But in Rome and Vatican City, one feels it should be different. After all, it is an extremely religious place. Much of the gorgeous art and stunning architecture was built to honor God and various saints. Yet even working as an intern reporting on the Vatican, I have often been caught up in the other side of things, looking at the Vatican as if it were any other country.
But joining the Missionaries of Charity in their afternoon work really brought home for me what Pope Francis has been trying to say ever since he became pope in March. He has repeatedly called for an end to careerism and hypocrisy and a return to the real mission of the church.
“I would like a church that is poor and for the poor,” Pope Francis said.
Amidst all the history and mystery of the Vatican, the thousands of years of tradition that continue to bewilder the uninitiated, it is a beautiful thing to be in Rome to witness this renewed emphasis on the simple serving of others.
After speaking with the Missionaries of Charity, and seeing the joy that radiates from their faces, it’s clear to me that they’re doing something right.
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Clare Myers is a student at the University of Dallas and an intern at the Catholic News Service Rome bureau.