Brendan Johnson’s journal, continued:
June 12, 2010, part 2
The afternoon outing with Fr. Baker took us to the Aventine Hill to see some churches – or so we thought. What we didn’t factor in was the time of year and time of day it was, so we stumbled into several weddings and really weren’t able to see much of the churches up there. However, all of this bad luck was made up for when we passed the church of St. Sixtus II (San Sisto All’Appia) – now a Dominican convent. It was a wonderful mishap!
Fr. Baker suggested I give the gate a push to see if we could get in, but it was locked. As we were walking away, a little old Dominican sister waved to us from the window, unlocked the gate and called us back to the convent. Sr. Maria Ernestina, 62 years in the convent, proceeded to give us a private tour — completely in Italian. Despite the language barrier, we were able to learn a lot about the convent, which was the first church Pope Honorius III gave St. Dominic when he arrived in Rome. It was also the site of several of St. Dominic’s miracles.
The sister showed us all around the chapel, and even through the older parts of the basilica, which date back to at least the third century and had frescoes from the same time period. She also showed us the refectory and the Chapter room where their foundress (whose cause is up for canonization) was buried after the Napoleonic occupation is. The Chapter room is also where St. Dominic worked several miracles. The sisters then gave us some books (in Italian of course) that explain the church/convent and contain some wonderful pictures to remember everything by. What a grace it was to stumble into this church — probably one of the best things that could have happened to us as we made our way around!