Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rome Bonus Post -- Never Send a Jew to Buy a Rosary

So, a friend had requested "some Holy Water blessed by the Pope or something like that."  This seemed like a reasonable request.  Heck, the little font thingie near the door of St. Peter's has perfectly good Holy Water in it free for the touching (or doing whatever one does with Holy Water ... Rudy told me to dip my fingers in it and joked that it wouldn't turn me Catholic or anything) -- certainly Pope-blessed Holy Water should be around and available for purchase.


Rudy gave me about 20 minutes ("but take as long as you want") to make my Vatican purchases, and aimed me toward the right shop for all my Vatican needs -- there's the Vatican bookstore (largely limited to books) which is right next to the Vatican post office (which is not limited to postal items, but has all sorts of religious items).  So, I go into the Vatican post office, where lots and lots of people are filling out post cards to mail them from the smallest country in the world.  Stamps are also available for purchase -- many in sets.  I gave some consideration to the set with images of the Popemobile through the years -- but if you were expecting some Holy Water, I'm thinking a stamp of the Popemobile may be a let-down.  So, I approach the cases with religious items.  If there's no holy water, maybe there's a medal of a saint or something.

Saint medals are surprisingly limited.  In fact (and I'm guessing this is largely a result of market demand), there's way more stuff commemorating the beatification of John Paul II.  I do not recall my friend being a huge devotee of the former Pope (not that she had anything against him or anything -- I just don't think she'd get much comfort from a medallion with his face on it).

If we omit the crazy expensive stuff, I'm left with three or so cases of crucifixes, rosaries, and crosses.  It is around now that I realize I'm totally out of my depth.  I haven't experienced this particular feeling since the first time I set foot in an REI (to buy someone a topo map) even though I'd never been on a hike (or camping, or skiing, or kayaking, or anything else that REI sells stuff for).  I was walking around with a look on my face that clearly said, "I have no idea what to do in here," only, in this case, it was compounded by, "and I don't speak Italian, either."

My first problem was that, not having prepared for this shopping experience, and not having had any cause to ever meet a rosary up close, I had no idea as to which of the pretty crosses on beaded chains were rosaries and which were just, y'know, crosses on chains (e.g. bracelets or necklaces).  OK, yes, some were some that I could clearly identify as rosary beads, but others were somewhat ambiguous to me.  And I had no idea if the friend in question even uses (or would use) a rosary -- heck, I know my friends' faiths as a sort of general manner; I rarely get into the details of how they actually pray.  It's sort of personal.

Fifteen minutes have ticked away, and I've walked up and down the cases a couple dozen times, and was no closer to a decision.  Those popemobile stamps were starting to look good.  I was tempted to find someone who spoke English in there and ask for advice, but I couldn't quite figure out the question I would ask ("Hi, what's a good reasonably-priced gift for a not incredibly devout Catholic who had been hoping for something like Holy water?") and didn't want to offend.  I mean, I definitely got the vibe that I was the only non-Christian in the place, and one wants to be respectful.

Ten minutes later, I walked out, tightly clutching a bag with a pretty silver cross in it.

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