I’m just back from a few days in Rome with 39 pupils from St Columba’s High School in Gourock, where I’m currently chaplain. Anyone who’s been involved in school trips will be familiar with the acute sleep deprivation, the tearful, attention-seeking outbursts and the occasional brush with the authorities (and that’s just the adults).

Thankfully, our visit passed off without any major incidents and the kids seemed to enjoy the experience. It’s sometimes hard to tell what 14-year-olds are thinking, but there were smiles and several thumbs up as we returned them to their parents.

I was roughly the same age when I first saw the Eternal City. Unlike these kids, however, I already had a couple of years of classical studies and Latin behind me, so coming to Rome was as much a pilgrimage to the city of Caesar and Cicero as it was to see the Vatican in the Extraordinary Jubilee of 1983.

The very next year I managed to persuade my Mum to let me leave the sunbeds of Rimini for an unaccompanied overnight stay in Rome, where I would turn 16. What may have looked like irresponsible parenting was actually a recognition that I was more likely to be tucked up in bed with HV Morton’s A Traveller in Rome than knocking back grappa in some dingy bar.

Our pupils, although bright enough for sure, for the most part don’t share my enthusiasm for classical antiquity or Church history. Our tour guide at the Colosseum was met with blank looks when she presumed they would all have seen the movie Gladiator. I pointed out that the film came out two years before they were born so that’s already ancient history to them.

What these guides need is for Disney or Pixar to produce an animated version of the legend of Romulus and Remus or for Marvel to come up with a new league of superheroes based on Roman demigods.

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