Piazza Roma

In chapter five of Holy Ground I describe a celebration in the Piazza Campo dei Fiori of Rome after the Italian soccer team defeated Germany in double overtime of the semi-final World Cup. This is a clip of the event followed by an excerpt from the book explaining its significance.

“As the evening festivity continued, the terraces around the piazza filled with spectators. From one such window emerged an elderly gentleman in his undershirt, enjoying a smoke. A few young men noticed the resemblance of this fellow to the late Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. They shouted, “Look up, look up” and began calling to the second story window, “Il Duce, Il Duce” (Mussolini’s nickname translated “the Leader”). Soon others were allured by this phenomenon. The old man played the part with delight. Initially, I thought he was a professional actor since he performed so well; then I realized he was simply Italian. Others quickly joined in and soon the entire piazza was looking to the same window where the old man with the prominent hooked nose and protruding chin enjoyed his moment of fame. The crowd continued to chant, “Duce, Duce, Duce!” as the Benito look-alike waved and blew kisses to his adoring fans.

Among the various lessons I learned in the Roman piazza is the importance of having a leader. God has created us to follow him; men and women cannot function otherwise. However, from the Greek philosopher Protagoras to the blue-eyed Sinatra of Hoboken, man has measured meaning by himself and has sought to live his own way.

Catholics and Evangelicals agree that men and women are designed to depend on God and not live as delusional demigods who create their own destiny. Scripture describes us as sheep whom God leads into green pastures. When a sheep wanders off by himself, it isn’t long before danger befalls him. To avoid this calamity, the shepherd extends nurture and protection. Such loving care is graphically expressed by Charles Spurgeon in the following story:

One evening, in 1861, as General Garibaldi was going home, he met a Sardinian shepherd lamenting the loss of a lamb out of his flock. Garibaldi at once turned to his staff and announced his intention of scouring the mountain in search of the lamb.  A grand expedition was organized.  Lanterns were brought, and old officers of many a campaign started off, full of zeal, to hunt the fugitive.   But no lamb was found, and the soldiers were ordered to their beds.  The next morning Garibaldi’s attendant found him in bed, fast asleep.  He was surprised at this, for the General was always up before anybody else.  The attendant went off softly and returned in half-an-hour.  Garibaldi still slept. After another delay, the attendant awoke him.  The General rubbed his eyes, and so did his attendant when he saw the old warrior take from under the covering the lost lamb and bid him convey it to the shepherd.  The General had kept up the search through the night until he had found it.  Even so does the Good Shepherd go in search of His lost sheep until He finds them.[1]

“We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way,” says the prophet Isaiah (53:6). In John’s Gospel Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:14-15).” In response to these statements, all Christians say “amen.” Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world died, rose, and is now seated beside the Father in heaven. Up to this point Catholics and Evangelicals are of one mind. However, disagreement comes with the question that usually follows: who represents the Good Shepherd on earth?”

[1] Charles Spurgeon, The Best of C.H. Spurgeon, (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Book House, 1978), 117.

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